GRAND PRAIRIE, TX – As we wait for news from the CBIC on the outcome of the round one Re-Compete here at MetroCare Home Medical, anxiety levels are high. We are trying to see into the future and plan a sustainable business model with CMS contracts, while simultaneously strategizing for a business model without CMS contracts.
Most of our colleagues’ businesses (including our own) were built on a reimbursement model with the federal government as the largest payer. Over the years, we’ve managed to leverage against that, but times are tough and will get tougher.
However, our industry’s problems do not begin and end with the government. The third party payer model of providing equipment and services (both public and privately funded) is undergoing a massive overhaul through consolidation and regulation. We are battling against this to preserve patient care, but at the end of the day, I have reason to be optimistic.
Necessity is the mother of invention. Despite these turbulent times, MetroCare recognizes that the medical equipment industry is growing. We know that almost 55% of the American population will be over the age of 65 by the year 2020 (Source: HHS Administration on Aging).
When we couple this with cuts to Medicare’s DME benefit resulting in a consolidation to our industry, we are left with no choice. We’re changing our culture so that we can succeed in this new frontier of innovation in patient care. We don’t just want to be a part, we want to lead the charge.
Many outside business investors are flocking to our market because of these conditions. Start-ups will focus on how to offer equipment financing direct to patients, open merchant accounts with Visa and AMEX, find partners that offer home modifications, build strong service, repair, and rental divisions. They may consider procuring and offering used equipment to those who cannot afford new.
They may have a billing team to help bill for the occasional insurance claims, but these businesses will be there primarily to fill a void that the traditional third party payer system has created. And what a reward at the end of the day to have the middle man removed and the ability to get to know and touch the hands of each and every patient and caregiver that’s served.
Most of you reading this aren’t outside investors looking at a start-up opportunity – you’re a thousand steps ahead of that. This industry knows what we’re doing and we have the tools to change. I whole-heartedly agree with what Mr. Wayne Stanfield said in a column recently, will you change or will you wait for someone else to come and change it first?
Being forced to focus on strategy has been a blessing in disguise, because it has shown us our strengths, given us leverage against our weaknesses, and drawn us closer to our vendor partners, friendly competitors, and congressional leaders. One of the best business decision we’ve made was one made from the very beginning of incorporation—to get involved and stay involved.
We joined VGM, we joined our state association, signed on to MED Group, and we participate annually in Medtrade and other industry events. We listen to many industry webinars to seek outside input and advice. We’ve found that the solution to almost any question or problem we’ve experienced in the past 27 years has been available to us through one of these networks.
More recently, we’ve gotten connected in a new way. We launched our social media initiatives in 2010. We tweet, we’re Facebooking daily, and we joined AAHomecare. We attended the DC Conference and we call and write to our congressmen regularly.
We inform our patients so they know what’s happening to their health care benefits. We’re educating our referrals, we’re engaging our staff and urging them to get involved in issues that affect our industry.
Recent regulatory concerns have spawned a huge increase in the presence of our industry on Capitol Hill and in local markets. This is a wonderful side effect that will serve us well for decades to come. We’re growing up and getting smarter.
Whatever the future holds for DME, we’ll be there to lead the charge for patient care. We won’t do it alone, but instead hand in hand with each and every one of you, our vendors, and trade associations.
Laurie Bachorek is director of Human Resources, Sales, and Business Development at MetroCare Home Medical Equipment, Grand Prairie, Texas.