MK Battery lowers prices, maintains quality

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Despite a $700 fluctuation in the price of lead in the last few months of 2011, MK Battery plans to start the new year off with a price break.

The price of lead has been as high as $2,500 and as low as $1,800 per metric ton. On Dec. 22, at press time, it was $1,955.

"The only thing consistent with lead prices is their inconsistency," said Wayne Merdinger, director of marketing for MK Battery.

Add to that: Other commodities, such as gas, have been high, not to mention other business expenses, such as health care, say company officials.

Still, MK Battery will reduce prices for some battery types and for some markets on Jan. 1. That's largely because, for about two years now, the company has been setting its battery prices based on a three-month average of lead prices. When lead prices go up or down at least $100, they trigger an increase or decrease in battery prices. This time around, it’s a decrease.

"It's a way to manage commodities, because it can be a challenge," said Dennis Sharpe, national sales manager. "We're heavily dependent on commodities for the price of our products."

Chronic low battery?

Providers have complained that cost pressures have forced manufacturers to make lower quality wheelchairs. What about wheelchair batteries?

One reader emailed HME News to share his concern that batteries don’t last as long as they used to, especially for heavy-duty wheelchair users. Officials at MK Battery say they continue to provide "the same high quality” batteries and that its warranty rates remain low.

"There certainly are pressures in the reimbursement arena that have caused many providers to use lower quality products and that would account for the perception that battery quality, in general, has declined," Merdinger said. "Unfortunately, the axiom you get what you pay for applies to battery quality."

But some providers say it has less to do with quality than maintenance.

"We attribute many problems with how consumers charge their batteries," said Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply, a wheelchair provider in Charlotte who uses a mix of batteries from MK Battery and Toyo Battery. "Wheelchair batteries don't have memories like a cell phone battery. To make a cell phone battery last, you have to wait until it's dead to charge it. To make a wheelchair battery last, you have to charge it every night, even if it’s down only 10%."

A few years ago, MK Battery debuted a guide to effective battery care and maintenance designed to help providers reduce service calls.

"In general, we believe our providers are better trained in working with batteries," Merdinger said.



Anyone who thinks lower reimbursements will not result in a lower quality of care is living in a fantasy world.

MK lowering cost to dealers will only help marginally. Reimbursement on most batteries (U1s the exception) is still at or below costs. Reimbursement has to go up on batteries and soon. Our company is at the point where we can not do ANY batteries for Medicaid recipients because of reimbursement and no ability to do unassigned or cash sales to them.