BILLINGS, MT – Eric Ecker, manager at St. Vincent Medical Supply and Mobility, Billings, Montana, never intended to be in the DME business. As a newly minted graduate with a business degree from Montana State University more than two decades ago, Ecker eyed a career in the aerospace industry.
He moved west and took a job with Boeing in Seattle, but soon after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 dramatically changed the business outlook of the airline industry. His relatively new job eventually became untenable and he and his wife decided to return to the Treasure State.
“We came back home to Billings, Montana, to try to pick up the pieces,” says Ecker, now president of the Big Sky Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers (Big Sky AMES). “My older brother is a respiratory therapist by trade, and he had some contacts at Rotech, a major national.”
Ecker landed a job with Rotech as a location manager and learned the ropes for six years before moving on to St. Vincent, a hospital-owned DME that is much like a mom-and-pop operation. “It got me off the road and spending more time with the family,” he says. “By this time, I started to recognize the impact of advocacy. We are a single DME provider in our hospital system, and it totally shifted my idea of DMEs and mom and pops that were out there trying to make it.”
Falling reimbursement rates and “lame duck” competitive bids motivated Ecker to get involved in a big way, working his way through leadership positions at Big Sky. “The mom and pops and small regionals make the world go round in DME,” he says. “I wanted to ensure that we had a voice…Our best interactions have been with Senator Steve Daines [R-Mont.]. I believe he is appreciative of the work we do out here, and we are looking to him to continue to champion DME.”
When he’s not working or spending time with the family, Ecker enjoys rebuilding classic cars. “Sometimes it’s a de-stress and sometimes it just causes me more stress,” he says with a chuckle. “My dream car is a 1955 Ford F-100 pickup truck. I do have one of those. It’s not in mint condition, but maybe someday it will be when I have the time.”