Total Home goes regional overnight

Sunday, September 30, 2007

ELGIN, Ill. - On June 30, Total Home Health employed 80 people in one location. On July 1, the provider had 140 employees spread across seven branches in four states, working to transition its new oxygen patients onto its service.
Such are the challenges when a provider wins a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) contract, said Alan Kirk, vice president of the nearly 40-year-old family-owned company.
"We read that it was up for bid so we thought, 'What the heck, let's give it a shot,'" said Kirk. "We were surprised we won."
With the contract, Total Home Health quickly became a regional player, working with the bank up until the last minute to secure financing for the rapid expansion, said Kirk.
"It's mind-boggling," he said. "We had 60 days to transfer all those patients. We had to visit every single one."
The five-year contract covers oxygen, ventilator and DME services for veterans throughout Wisconsin, northern Illinois, Indiana and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. About 50% of the contract is in the Chicago area, with the rest scattered throughout.
Having a local presence worked to Total Home's advantage, said Kirk.
"A lot of people who bid don't have a location (here)," he said. "They were out of California or whatever. The VA didn't want to go with a company like that."
The contract increased the company's business by one third and the VA is now its largest single payer. Kirk describes the VA as a fair and reasonable payer. The provider said he earns considerably less on those services for the VA, but there is an upside.
"We bill them and they pay us promptly with credit card," said Kirk. "We don't ever have to do a CMN; there's no Medicare (hassles)."
Total Home set up a toll-free number that goes directly to a nine-member VA team at the Elgin headquarters. Via phone and fax, they receive orders for the entire territory, which are forwarded to the individual branches. The branches do their own dispatching and send the paperwork back to the central operation. Everything is scanned, so all the branches, as well as the veterans hospitals, have immediate Web access to documents.
"You need to be efficient to make ends meet," he said. "It's a very tight contract. We have no room for goofing around."