Superstore remnant calls it quits

Sunday, March 31, 2002

PHOENIX, Ariz. - One of the last vestiges of the HME superstore movement closed its doors for good in late January.

Supermarket and drugstore chain giant Albertson's sold its HME subsidiary, Health'n'Home, to six different companies. Lincare acquired all of the company's Medicare business, respiratory and DME. O2 Science picked up all of the non-Medicare respiratory. Health 'n' Home's other business lines - infusion, mail-order meds, ostomy and non-Medicare DME - went to four smaller unnamed companies, said Jack Eskenazi, senior v.p. for American HealthCare Capital, which brokered the deal.

"Albertson's could not bill for HME," Eskenazi said. " They had the mentality of cash and carry, and getting into billing codes didn't work. They couldn't do it, and they took huge loses because they would keep getting stuff sent back for the wrong codes."

If the company could have collected its receivables, Health 'n' Home would still be open, but rather than hire HME billing professionals, Albertson's inexplicably used its own employees who didn't have a clue about Medicare billing, Eskenazi said.

The name Health 'n' Home no longer exists, and Albertson will no long bill Medicare or other third-party payers.

Health 'n' Home operated free-standing locations in Kansas City, Mo.;Scottsdale, Arizona; Las Vegas and multiple California locations. It generated about $40 million in revenue and sold for $14 million, plus about $16 million in accounts receivables, which Albertson's gets to collect.

Albertson picked up Health 'n' Home in 1999 when it acquired American Stores. Albertson's decided to jettison Health 'n' Home as part of a restructuring that keyed on paring back to its core competencies: retail supermarkets and drugstores.

In its hey day, Health 'n' Home spurred a home healthcare superstore movement, breaking ground in 1995 with a 28,000-square-foot store in Glendale, Ariz. Yet the movement was short-lived, and since then, Health 'n' Home has done little but downsize. In 1998, it converted its superstore into an Osco drug store, retaining its retail homecare products as a department within the store, and bought the nine-location Ultimate Home Care to expand the operations of its six existing hubs.

In its demise, Health 'n' Home follows American Health Store, MedMax, Life Solutions to that big box in the sky. While Health 'n' Home owes its failure to a lack of billing expertise, the other superstores failed to generate enough sales to support their giant locations. HME