Listen up Liz: Maine Street matters, retail sales don't

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It was mid-August, and I was only 12 cold calls into my usual 20 per day for three days, hunting for stories for this issue, when I heard some providers making some pretty strong statements.

The first of the two providers told me:

"I want to hear more from Main Street America than the Invacares and the Sunrise Medicals. Because I know people are in trouble. I helped a woman, an RN, start a DME company in San Jose and she does a magnificent job, but she's in a competitive bidding area and she's in trouble. How's the little guy in Georgia doing? I'm curious what's happening to them."

I agree that industry lobbyists like Seth Johnson and company make regular appearances in our NewsWire stories, but that's because there's a lot going on legislatively right now and they're based on the Hill, which, now that I think of it, you could call the Main Street of Washington, D.C. (I am very thankful, by the way, that Seth and company allow me to bug them each week for NewsWire stories.)

I got some heat not too long ago for our NewsWire being too "negative." Now this.

But this provider got me thinking. In addition to including more positive stories in our NewsWires, maybe we need to include more stories about "the little guy in Georgia."

Coincidentally, we were already taking a crack at this. After noticing that one of the most read NewsWire stories in July was about Jim Greatorex adding retail items like mattresses and shoes with coil springs to his product mix this summer (see page 28), we decided to try and include at least one provider-centric story in our NewsWire each week.

Speaking of retail, the second of the two providers told me:

"I think it's funny that every HME News I receive talks about, 'Get cash sales.' People don't pay cash for this stuff. The age group that's using DME right now--they're of the mindset that insurance is supposed to pay. We're used to paying for everything; they're not. Until then, I think it's a bad idea."

This provider caught me off guard. Too much coverage on the need for providers to diversify their product mix away from Medicare by increasing retail sales? Although I'm not sure I agree with this provider, he makes a good point, one that he wouldn't go on the record as saying, because, let's face it, in this new era of competitive bidding, some providers are holding on to retails sales like a lifeline.

Anyone else feel like this provider? Should we tone down our retail sales rallying call?

I'll be making cold calls again soon enough. Maybe I'll call you. What will you have to say? I'm all ears. hme