Nonprofit fills gap

Lake Health relieves rural access issues
Friday, August 19, 2016

LAKEVIEW, Ore. – Before Lake Health Medical Supply opened July 15, local oxygen patients had to wait weeks for a delivery or drive 100 miles if they needed more oxygen.  

“The community seems to be pleased,” said Michael Trenkle, DME specialist at Lake Health Medical. “People keep telling me, ‘We really needed this. We’re so glad you’re here. We’re so glad to have access.’”

Lake Health Medical, a nonprofit and part of the Lake Health District, which includes a hospital, offers a full range of DME, including oxygen, orthotics, CPAP, mobility and daily living products. It’s currently a cash business.

Oxygen is the No. 1 pain point for patients, says Trenkle. Due to financial restraints spurred by competitive bidding, providers generally limit home deliveries to rural areas once a month.

“If a patient runs out after two weeks, the provider’s answer is to go to the hospital and ask the hospital to give them more tanks,” he said. “Their other option is to drive to Klamath Falls, but it’s hard to drive over a mountain when you don’t have any oxygen tanks and you have COPD.” 

Lake Health Medical is currently in talks with numerous private insurance companies and has already taken steps to become a Medicare/Medicaid provider even though Medicare cut reimbursement by a total of 50% in non-bid areas on July 1.

“Our entire purpose for opening Lake Health Medical Supply was to provide for our community with the knowledge that they were going to be facing serious access issues due to cuts, like the one on July 1,” said Trenkle. “As far as our delivery model goes, we are providing portable oxygen concentrators and homefill systems for our continuous oxygen patients to reduce delivery costs.”