Didn't win a bid? Life goes on

Sunday, September 26, 2010

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Medicare may have dealt a bad hand to Chair & Equipment Rental & Sales, but the provider has no plans to fold.

As part of competitive bidding, Chair & Equipment submitted bids in four product categories, including standard power wheelchairs, and at press time in late August, it had received zero contract offers.

"You don't win any bids; so what do you do?" asked Will Dolan, managing director. "OK, you do something different."

In the Charlotte metropolitan statistical area (MSA), that means focusing on complex power wheelchairs, which weren't included in the program. (Chair & Equipment will still offer standard power wheelchairs and other products included in the program, but it will ask Medicare beneficiaries to pay cash.)

It also means that Chair & Equipment will strengthen its presence outside the Charlotte MSA in cities like Winston-Salem and Columbia, and will expand its reach into South Carolina.

"We estimate that 20% of our revenues come from products in the program within the MSA," Dolan said. "But if we go for complex rehab and we change the makeup of the sales team and push them outside Charlotte, we basically take competitive bidding out of our business plan."

In August, Chair & Equipment hired a fourth assistive technology professional (ATP). Two of the provider's ATPs will now focus exclusively on building referral relationships outside the Charlotte MSA.

"I think we have a team in place now that will take us through next year," Dolan said.

Although Chair & Equipment considers itself a mom-and-pop, it aspires to be more, especially now, when as far as Medicare is concerned, it's largely empty-handed.

"You have to adjust your ways," Dolan said. "Because the mom-and-pops--they're the companies that I know of that are primarily Medicare and they didn't win bids. We've always been a mom-and-pop, but when you look at the more successful regional companies out there, they're doing the same thing--they're trying to expand."