BULLHEAD CITY, AZ – Almost a decade ago, Tri-State Respiratory-Anything Medical, began operating from a modest 800-sq-ft showroom in Bullhead City, Arizona. Today, the showroom measures 18,000 square feet, making it one of the largest in the United States.
Manager Edric Huyke (shown here with Erica Holster, customer service representative) has overseen the expansion since the beginning, in the process becoming a fixture in the desert community that swells with snow birds in the winter. The 62-year-old Huyke is in charge of the retail aspect of the store, which currently accounts for about a third of all sales. The rest is a diversified mix that includes Medicare and private insurance.
Known for its stifling heat in the Summer, as well as the gambling mecca of Laughlin just across the Colorado river, Bullhead City is not yet involved in competitive bidding. Several regions nearby (Las Vegas and Phoenix for example) are entangled in the federal program, and Huyke knows it’s just a matter of time for his town.
“When competitive bidding does go national, it will severely impact us,” says Huyke. “We are going to have to change our business model, and we have already started. We knew it was coming, but the way the storm clouds are forming, it might be sooner than we think.”
One way that model will inevitably change is less service for the surrounding rural communities. “We used to service a 75-mile radius in the rural area,” says Huyke. “We have an every-other-Wednesday route where we do a 280-mile round trip to visit six clients. Between the audits and what has been done to our system, no one is going to be able to afford to go out to the middle of nowhere. There is a town called Yucca 40 miles from us. Do you really think any of us will go out there for 40% to 60% less, especially when the road is not even paved?”
Huyke is one of several new members to join the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare), a move he hopes will influence lawmakers in Washington, DC. “I feel that we as an industry have been persecuted,” he says. “It’s gotten to the point that it’s no longer about caring. It’s no longer about what the patient needs. It’s about how well the doctor structures his English grammar.
“I have a customer who was denied a wheelchair and he is paralyzed,” continues Huyke. “I took 45 denials that were all based on people not being able to read clinical notes. What part of paralyzed don’t you understand? I found out that the people who audited did not forward the notes to Medicare. I talked to the state association, and I talked to AAHomecare, and they said they would help me with the battle.”
With Las Vegas just 107 miles away to South, Huyke makes a point to visit Medtrade Spring every year. “I like it because because it’s more homey,” he says. “It’s easier for me to interact with the manufacturers. I go there to look at products, talk to manufacturers, and get educated. I pick my lines once a year at Medtrade Spring, and we talk price.” — Greg Thompson