Suppliers question participation of CIL with for-profit store

Tuesday, April 30, 2002

PORTLAND, Maine — The state's wheelchair suppliers are questioning whether Alpha One has a conflict of interest as an administrator of CMS's consumer-directed DME (CD-DME) demonstration because it owns a for-profit HME store, Alpha One Medical.

The Portland, Maine-based Alpha One, a non-profit organization providing programs and services for people with disabilities, is one of four Centers for Independent Living (CILs) that CMS has selected to school prospective buyers on how to choose a wheelchair, as well as negotiate its price.

Wheelchair providers worry that Alpha One will educate beneficiaries and steer them directly to one of its Alpha One Medical stores in South Portland, Lewiston or Augusta, to purchase a wheelchair.

"I don't mind the concept of a non-profit, independent organization working to better educate beneficiaries," said one anonymous provider, "but I do mind that that organization has a for-profit extension."

Dennis Fitzgibbons, director of operations for Alpha One, said he's aware of the conflict-of-interest concerns, but there's little merit in them.

"We have a list of wheelchair suppliers, and they'll be free to choose whoever they want," he said.

Moreover, Fitzgibbons said he plans to market his program statewide. HME