Providers see business opportunities in Cuba

‘There’s no one there yet’
Friday, April 29, 2016

YARMOUTH, Maine – As diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba slowly improve, HME providers in Florida are eager to gain a foothold on the isolated island.

“Obviously, there’s a big interest in doing business in Cuba, especially in Miami, because of the proximity,” said Angel Pardo, owner of DMR in Doral. “We could be the main hub for any business transactions in Cuba.”

The demand for HME on the communist island is strong. Cubans live an average of 79 years, and by 2030, almost one-third of them will be over the age of 60, according to the Havana Times.

An aging population isn’t the only thing working in providers’ favor: Right now, it’s hard for Cubans to get HME.

“I’m sure it’s pretty expensive and I don’t think they have what we do in the States,” said Alicia Hubbard, co-owner of Home Medical Equipment and Supply in Hollywood, who expressed interest in providing wound care and ostomy supplies.

This is why some providers are already doing business in Cuba, albeit indirectly.

“Most of our customers are Cuban,” said Leo Extramil, president of Hialeah, Fla.-based Four Health. “They come in and ship our products to Cuba to their friends and family members.”

While the demand for HME may be high, doing business in Cuba does present a unique set of logistical problems, starting with payment.

“God only knows what kind of payer system they have or, unfortunately, the limited financial resources these people have,” said Pardo.

But the biggest problem: Cuba is close, but not that close.

“The distance presents warranty issues,” Extramil said. “Also, it’s very expensive to ship products to Cuba. Sometimes the product costs just as much as it does to send it.”

While uncertainties abound and only Congress can officially lift the U.S.’s embargo on Cuba, providers say it’s an opportunity worth looking in to.

“There’s no one there yet,” said Extramil. “At first there’s going to be a lot of market share, because there’s no competition. The first (companies) that come in and get set up will have complete control of the island.”