Despite oxygen cap, provider jumps in

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

TAMPA, Fla.--It may seem counterintuitive to get back into the oxygen market in light of the 36-month cap, but that’s just what Butch Vanderpool did recently.

“I’ve got three years for Medicare to figure out what they are going to do because the cap as it stands isn’t going to work,” said Vanderpool, the owner of Mobility Specialists in Tampa and Auburndale, Fla. “My oldest oxygen patient is only 60 days.”

Vanderpool isn’t a stranger to the business. He launched his own HME, Healthcare Diagnostics, in 1996, and sold all but the rehab and sleep lab division to Apria in 2003. As part of the deal, Vanderpool had a five-year non-compete agreement for oxygen and DME. That expired in September.

The last time Vanderpool called himself an oxygen provider, newer transfilling technology was just coming to the market. Investing in the more expensive equipment this time around was a “no-brainer,” he said.

“I don’t have to hire as much staff or have as many vehicles,” he said. “A lot of people won’t invest in technology but if you look at the numbers, it makes sense.”

Despite his positive outlook, Vanderpool doesn’t take the cap lightly. He won’t accept snowbirds with less than 18 months left on their benefit and the referring provider must sign a contract and undergo a credit check. So far, he has accepted only one snowbird this season.

“If a patient is ready to cap out, I would forsee unscrupulous companies sending me the patient and me getting stuck not getting paid for several years,” said Vanderpool.