Slurping sounds, rising sun

Thursday, July 31, 2008

As I write, a delay of competitive bidding is still not a done deal but appears imminent. The Senate and House have both passed a delay bill. President Bush can now sign the bill into law; let it go into law without signing it; or veto it. If he vetoes, the bill goes back to the House and Senate for a second vote. At the moment, lawmakers have enough votes to override a veto. Whatever happens, I can’t say enough about the hard work everyone associated with delaying competitive bidding has put in. Thank you all very much.

What’s that slurping sound?

As written, the bill would delay competitive bidding for 18 to 24 months. What a gift for providers, especially those of you who haven’t yet gotten serious about making your companies more efficient. If you fall into this group, let me tell you something: There are providers out there just dying to eat your lunch. Unless you make some serious efforts to improve your operations, they know you are not in this business for the long run. One provider told me last month that he looks at inefficient competitors and sees opportunity. During our phone conversation, I said, “Hey, what’s that slurping sound.” He said: “It’s me, licking my chops.”

Some serious jack

News about competitive bidding made most of the noise this month, but how about Apria being acquired by The Blackstone Group, a giant private equity firm, for $1.6 billion? That’s some nice bling. Private equity groups don’t throw money around carelessly. Blackstone obviously sees some serious potential to grow Apria and then sell it for a profit. Sounds to me like just one more reason-if you need one-to be optimistic about the industry’s future. If Blackstone can grow Apria, you can grow your business.
Rising sun
lifts all boats?

Also on the M&A front, Tejin Limited, a big pharmaceutical and home healthcare company in Japan, bought two big HME providers earlier this year (See page 19). When it comes to the HME market in the United States, the Japanese like what they see. You should, too. “They’re looking at the industry and saying, ‘I don’t care how bad Medicare is right now, the baby boomer generation is here and they have money,” said one industry source.

So long

I never met Suegene Levin, but I wish I had. Suegene, who worked as a senior category manager for Invacare Supply Group (ISG), passed away June 10, 20 months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. On the next page, some of her industry friends say what made Suegene so special. To them and to all Suegene’s friends and family, we offer our warmest condolences.