Cash business: Now there’s a ‘romantic’ HME idea

Monday, February 28, 2005

CHESAPEAKE, Va. - When discussing his new business venture recently, Dave Mills used several words not often associated with durable medical equipment: romantic, luxurious and grandiose.

For example, about his foray into ramps, elevators, stair glides and minor home modifications, the co-owner of First Choice in Homecare said: “The idea of building a secondary cash business based only on your ability to do the job is a very romantic idea.” Spoken like a man on intimate terms with the challenges associated with Medicare (62% of the company’s business) and other third party payers.

And: Because a stair lift can cost nearly $5,000, some people may consider it “luxurious” and not explore it, Mills said. But when you consider the alternatives, either moving into assisted living or giving up the use of your second floor, the price seems more reasonable.

Finally: “People have asked me a number of times, what are you going to do about the Medicare cuts,” said Mills, whose full service company generates about $5 million a year. “Well, I can’t do a darn thing about them. If I’m a good manger of the company, all I’m going to do is figure out a way to keep service going. I wish my job was more grandiose than that, but that is what my business partners and I do.”

Moving into lifts, ramps and related products is one way Mills and his partners hope to ease the Medicare reimbursement cuts. They are particularly excited about the ramp-rental business potential and have already begun clearing room in their warehouse for the new products.

“I just flapped my gums a little bit about ramps, and the moment I did people were like, ‘Really?’” Mills said. “Once we started thinking about the idea it started smacking us in the face. Think about how many people have joint replacement surgery in a year and for whom a ramp would be great for six weeks or so. They don’t need a carpenter coming in and building a monstrosity that gums up their house for the rest of their life and that you can hang Christmas lights off of.”