Med Trust discovers niche servicing Hispanic providers

Thursday, August 31, 2006

HIALEAH, Fla. - A provider service organization that formed here last year as an alternative to other industry buying groups has swelled its ranks with Hispanic suppliers.
Composed of 50 member companies, Med Trust is a rare phenomenon in an industry where the VGM Group and the MED Group are as popular as Coke and Pepsi. But as the industry totters on the brink of unprecedented changes, new demands are coming to the fore.
"The small DME provider is going to have a hard time with competitive bidding," said Jose Clero, a Med Trust member and part owner of A Quality Medical Supplies in Hialeah, Fla. "For them to survive, they have to join a group and get stronger."
At present, the group draws members from just two counties in south Florida--Dade and Broward, which happen to be the most densely packed HME region in the country. The organization is based in Hialeah, a city of Cuban-Americans that boasts more DMEs per zip code than any other other municipality in America.
The group's distinguishing feature is Spanish, a not altogether surprising niche since this region of the country also boasts the highest number of people who speak Spanish in the home as a first language.
"Our client base of DMEs is 99% Spanish speaking," said Debbie Paz, president of DNA Billing Services in Miami. "This turns out to be an added responsibility, since we have to translate everything. With Med Trust, all the articles are in Spanish, the customer service reps speak Spanish and all the meetings are in Spanish and so on."
As a provider service organization, with dues of $400 per year, the group's primary function is as an agent for preferred rates with accreditation companies, for insurance packages and other benefits. The group is also signing purchasing contracts, though the contracts are of secondary concern.
"Most of our members are actually more concerned about the education process, with current industry issues and changes in governmental HME/DME policies," said Belkis Alvarez, a Med Trust board member and CEO of Rainbow Medical Services & Supplies. "We did not believe that anyone was properly representing the true service needs of the small minority and non-minority HME/DME businesses."
At a recent member's meeting, Alvarez provided running translations of the addresses made to the audience by Tom Cesar and Terry Duncombe. That was a new experience for Cesar, who's currently working on a Spanish translation project at his company, ACHC.
Why all the interest in Spanish all of a sudden? The answer is demographics.
"I don't believe that we are currently losing access to the Spanish speaking market, but in the not-to-distant future we could," said Cesar, ACHC president.