Providers try to take the bite out of NCB

Monday, July 31, 2006

No longer content to stand on the sidelines, providers are ramping up their marketing staffs to better position themselves for an HME world with competitive bidding.
Jim Poteet, owner of Metrocare Home Medical in Germantown, Wis., for example, hired a business development manager in June to call on new referral sources, particularly those in the private-pay sector.
"We're not going to become a statistic," Poteet said.
CMS's proposal for competitive bidding acknowledges that the program will likely cut the number of providers in half. Although Poteet knows he's safe for now--competitive bidding kicks off next year in 10 of the country's 25 largest cities, none of which are in Wisconsin--he realizes CMS intends to expand the program.
Earlier this year, Orange Belt Pharmacy in Deland, Fla., also ramped up its marketing staff, hiring another sales representative. Now it has three reps trolling the phone lines and pounding the pavement for new referral sources. Like Metrocare, Orange Belt's goal is to take the bite out of competitive bidding, said Doug Wedekind, the company's general manager and vice president.
"We're not trying to get rid of our Medicare and Medicaid business--we're just trying to supplement it," he said.
Currently, both Metrocare and Orange Belt do business mostly with Medicare and Medicaid, with a few private-pay contracts thrown in.
"But we're always probing for more," Wedekind said. "A year and a half ago, we only did business with Medicare and Medicaid. We don't want to put all our eggs in one basket."
Poteet agreed: "We want to create as many baskets as we can."
Knueppel HealthCare in Racine, Wis., has had a business development manager for years. "We wouldn't be where we are now (with our referral sources), if we didn't have that position," said Kevin Robison, the provider's HME manager.
In addition to courting new referral sources and maintaining relationships with existing sources, the business development manager has a hand in contracts, in-services and other operations. Most importantly, he serves as a valuable community liaison, providers said.
"I'm a strong believer that referral sources and customers do business with a company if they like you," Poteet said. "A good strong business relationship has to be a personal relationship. There has to be someone on the phone or at the door asking, 'How can I make your job easier?'"