With tanks in tow, provider relocates

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, Minn. - When Allina Home Oxygen and Medical Equipment moves into its new space in early 2007, it will bring along somewhat unusual components.
Allina--which serves about 4,200 liquid, homefill and portable oxygen patients--has its own fuel tanks. A typical tank holds 6,000 gallons of oxygen and stands 25 feet high. Allina buys liquid oxygen in bulk to fill tanks in its trucks to deliver oxygen to patient's homes.
The Cambridge location--one of 10--is moving from its in-hospital space to a larger, more-visible location. It's part of a non-profit $2 billion healthcare system that includes 11 hospitals and 15 community pharmacies, as well as labs, hospice and homecare services.
"We pride ourselves on being the service leader in this marketplace," said Pat Belland, vice president of Allina's DME, oxygen and pharmacy arm. "If we put the patient first, the rest will follow."
DME contributes about $35 million to the company's total revenues. Private insurance accounts for the bulk of its billings with 52%. Medicare makes up about 25% and Medicaid is 6%, with the rest coming from other sources.
There is a significant amount of synergy between the various segments of the Allina system, said Belland. About 50% of Allina's DME business comes from its hospitals, where DME employees work with discharge planners.
"We have staff right on campus at four of the hospitals that support the needs of our patients," said Belland. "Part of our business is servicing our hospitals, and we also need to be able to provide seamless service to our patients."
With the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen payments and further cuts proposed, Belland has lobbied lawmakers to support various DME bills.
"When these patients get to that point (of owning equipment), and you start having that machine break down, patients will be adversely affected by that," said Belland. "Congress is going to be getting a lot of phone calls when it goes into effect."