Reporter's notebook: Becoming a provider

Friday, April 24, 2015

Becoming a provider now isn’t as easy as it used to be. Just ask Jim Leedom, owner of Lomita, Calif.-based Home Health Depot. 

“It’s a whole different ballgame,” says Leedom, who owned a small chain of waterbed stores in the 70s and 80s. 

When waterbeds fell out of vogue in the 90s, Leedom says he “followed the crowd” and asked himself, “What will baby boomers need in the future?”

The answer? DME. 

“I started with $300 and a website,” he said. “At that point you didn’t have to have a retail location, so I literally started the business in my partner’s living room.”

Nowadays, providers have to have a $50,000 surety bond and fill out a 60-page Medicare enrollment application.

“It’s considerably more difficult now to get a Medicare license than it was then,” said Leedom. “The only way you could start a business now would be to start without a provider number and just accept cash.”

When Leedom opened up shop—so to speak—in 1999, he started small, selling basic DME. He bought two commodes, a walker and a wheelchair and he sold them. Then he upped the ante, buying three commodes, two walkers and two wheelchairs—sold them, and so on. He also developed a relationship with a big wheelchair manufacturer. 

“They fronted us a great deal of equipment, which they probably wouldn’t be willing to do anymore,” said Leedom, with a laugh.