San Diego provider offers rent to own

Friday, January 23, 2015

SAN DIEGO – When provider Erica Sell saw online companies offering rent-to-own home medical equipment, she said to herself, “I can do that.”

“I thought, if I accepted tiered payments from Medicare without any interest charges, I can accept (cash) payments from my customers,” said Sell, owner of Harmony Home Medical. “With them I’m able to collect on balances more consistently than from Medicare.”

Harmony offers a full service repair shop, home remodeling and wheelchairs, scooters, bathroom accessories and beds for purchase or rent. The maximum and most common rent-to-own cycle is 12 months. To enroll, customers must provide a driver’s license and a credit card and sign a contract. No credit checks, no questions.

One thing Harmony offers that websites can’t? Service.

“We have experts to help people get into the right piece of equipment,” said Sell. “We meet a lot of customers through Internet mishaps.”

Sell began offering rent-to-own services two months after Round 2 of competitive bidding was announced in 2013. 

“We had a pretty devastating drop—about 40% of our business—and that was more than a year ago,” said Sell. “We’ve recouped about 30% (through rent-to-own and cash sales); we have 10% more to go.”

Sell acknowledges that paying on manufacturer’s invoices can be a challenge if there are too many recurring payments and not enough cash purchases during the month, but overall, she says, it’s an improvement over insurance billing. It’s also an improvement for those without insurance.

“Rent-to-own is for the people who no longer get approved for power wheelchairs,” said Sell. “Their world is getting smaller because they can’t go all the way to the coffee shop or they can’t go to the mall for the day with their kids.”

At the moment, it doesn’t cost customers more money if they choose to rent a wheelchair, but Sell says she’s re-examining that policy. 

“We may add one more rental period to the rent-to-own for processing the paperwork each month,” she said. “But we really are trying to make things easier for our customers.”