Providers in transition

Monday, June 30, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine--Competitive bidding may have leveled the playing field among contract winners, but providers who actively seek out new Medicare business will pull ahead in the long run, industry sources say.

In tight markets, smaller things can make a huge difference, said Joe Sansone, founder and CEO of TMC Consulting and TMC Orthopedic.

“If any one of those (contract holders) actively promotes themselves, they are going to be light years ahead of the providers who are sitting on their tails just waiting for people to come,” he said.

Jason Seely, president of Columbus, Ohio-based DASCO, hit the ground running in the Cleveland and Cincinnati competitive bidding areas (CBAs), where the provider currently has only a limited presence.

“We put a full-time sales rep in Cincinnati, and we’re doing some marketing up in Cleveland,” he said.

Georgie Blackburn, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for Blackburn’s in Tarentum, Pa., has a marketing plan together but is hesitant to move forward too quickly.

“We’re hoping this doesn’t start,” she said.

Provider Dino Martis, president of Ablecare Medical in Cincinnati, plans to reduce marketing expenses.

He won’t have to compete against non-contract small providers.

“DMEs can spend a ton of money marketing, he said. “You are not marketing against Lincare and Apria, you’re marketing against every Tom, Dick and Harry who has a relationship with a referral source.”

It’s true that winning contracts is part of the battle, said Sansone.

“CMS looked at certain criteria and found you to be the best,” he said. “If you market yourself as one of the select few that can provide for Medicare patients, that absolutely will get a physician’s attention.”

Companies that won several contracts might find it easier to market themselves as Medicare providers, said Ron Majerus, president of Landmark Healthcare in the Dallas-Fort Worth CBA.

“We won basically every category, so I think it’s a bit easier then for the smaller companies who won one or two,” he said.

Winning just the contract for oxygen in the Riverside, California CBA has made devising a campaign tricky, said Nancy Cozzie, president of Southlake, Texas-based Southlake Medical. She bid in Riverside as a way to get a foot into a new market.

“I was expecting to win everything,” she said. “Now we’ll have to figure out how to drive oxygen out there by itself. We’ll let the directory get published and see what happens.”