DME Providers: We Support Your Labor of Love
As we navigate the third quarter of the year, the HME industry continues to be battered by programs and policies set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). We’re all drowning in not just Competitive Bidding, but also in swelling numbers of audits. Unending audits continue to put a financial strain on many home medical equipment providers and make it very difficult for them to supply Medicare beneficiaries with quality products and services.
We want you to know that Graham-Field understands! You continue to do all this as your Labor of Love for your business, but more importantly, to serve our aging population.
We want to help by sharing with you what others in this industry are doing to stay afloat.
Typically, only the voice of the homecare provider is speaking for Medicare beneficiaries. While CMS claims that reimbursement cuts in home medical equipment and supplies will reduce beneficiary out-of-pocket expenses and save Medicare money, it is actually having the opposite effect on Medicare beneficiaries.
Reimbursement cuts have forced many providers to close their doors, thus reducing product sources. This has resulted in long delays for beneficiaries in getting the medical equipment they need, having to pay for items out of pocket, or worse, going without.
Strategies to Stay Afloat: Post-Competitive Bidding
Many companies are finding it necessary to capitalize on new revenue streams and new business tactics in order to stay alive. Try the following four suggestions to cope with our changing and challenging business environment.
Add/Grow Retail Sales
Having a storefront with retail inventory can be expensive, but could prove beneficial in the long run. As the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) reported in 2013, more than 92 percent of DME providers didn’t win a contract in the bidding process, and 38 percent of those companies have since gone out of business. Since the aging population has continually increased over the years in most parts of the country, your local retail audience is better than ever.
Unfortunately, reimbursement cuts are forcing providers to make such drastic changes as not accepting assignment on Medicare claims, forcing Medicare beneficiaries to pay for items up front then wait for Medicare reimbursement. This is the last thing that providers want, but they need to survive as well as continue to be an option to the aging seniors who can’t get their equipment from the dwindling number of companies that CMS has left them with. At least in a retail environment, the seniors will be able to test and buy their products right away, instead of waiting for weeks.
DME Providers: Partner with Acute Care and Extended Care Providers
The continued efforts to keep patients out of the hospital and in their homes, combined with your expertise in medical equipment, will allow you to partner with these markets; educate them on products certain patients need in the home to prevent injuries.
Educating a hospital discharge planner about all the products available to keep someone from falling in a bathroom, for example, can help her advise her patients who recently experienced a fall in the home.
Expand Your Expertise
Some HME providers have studied their local markets to search out potential gaps in services for the aging population. Some have extended their expertise and product offerings by filling gaps in local services in areas such as orthopedic soft goods, servicing local government business like the VA, or partnering with other local providers who may offer something different, like Home Health services.
Those providers can now not only provide Home Health services, but also the products that correspond appropriately to those services.
Many HME providers have expanded their customer reach by having an e-commerce website as well as a retail storefront. Given the state of technology today and the different age groups making home care purchases, it’s important that HME providers maintain up-to-date business practices.
While some have stayed away from this market in fear of e-commerce giants like Amazon and Walmart, providers should not discount themselves from being a strong competitor to these giants. Educating your customers about supporting local business as well as the level of service you can provide locally should always be seen as an advantage in your customer’s eyes.
YOU are the accessible medical expert; an e-commerce giant is not.
We hear from providers every day that they feel the pain of the Medicare beneficiary who can’t get access to the products they need while you, as providers, are doing all that you can to stay in business to serve them.
As a manufacturer, Graham-Field hopes to see the momentum continue in increasing awareness and measurable action from a government standpoint. We will do all that we can to continue to support you with superior and affordable products to help you sustain this Labor of Love for your business, for this industry, and most importantly for our aging seniors, who deserve the best quality of care at home.
Cynthia Counts is Vice President of Product Management & Homecare SBU at Graham-Field.
About GF Health Products, Inc.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 300 US-based employees, GF Health Products, Inc. is a major manufacturer of healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare and primary care markets. The Graham-Field family of brands includes Basic American Medical Products, Everest & Jennings, Grafco, Hausted, John Bunn, Labtron, Lumex and Lumiscope. Visit www.grahamfield.com or call 770-368-4700.