How do they find us if they can’t find a provider?
Calls and emails from you, HME providers, aren’t the only calls and emails we field here at HME News world headquarters in Yarmouth, Maine. We also get calls from Medicare beneficiaries pretty frequently.
About a month ago, I got a call from a nice lady in Hartford, Conn., who wanted to know whom to call about getting a new wheelchair. She was a former customer of The Scooter Store and she was accustomed to getting a new wheelchair every five years. I told her she lived in a competitive bidding area and directed her to log on to www.medicare.gov, to click on “Find suppliers of medical equipment & supplies,” to type in her zip code when prompted, to select standard wheelchairs and to call one of the providers listed.
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that, as a former customer of The Scooter Store, she might have a hard time finding a provider to pick her up. Although, if she is right and she is eligible for a new wheelchair, her chances are probably better.
I also didn’t have the heart to tell her that the 10 providers listed on www.medicare.gov for her zip code ranged from Lincare at 6.11 miles away to Dusara Corporation/Universalmed Supply at 1,839.19 miles away. In fact, providers six through 10 were 100 miles away or more.
One of these days, I’ll stay on the line with a Medicare beneficiary long enough to ask them a few questions. How did this woman feel about having to find a new provider because her former provider didn’t win a contract, the final sting in a sting of stings that included an FBI investigation and congressional scrutiny? How did she feel about the possibility of having to select a provider located so many miles away?
Managing Editor Theresa Flaherty got an email this week from a self-proclaimed “elderly lady” in San Angelo, Texas, in need of a wheelchair. The woman wrote: “Please contact me. I have no help.”
It does not look like this woman lives in a competitive bidding area and when I plug her zip code into the supplier directory at www.medicare.gov, I get two results, both of which are a fairly reasonable 18.51 and 19.08 miles away. She lucked out on both accounts.
We’re happy to help when we can, of course, but Theresa and I often wonder: How do these beneficiaries even find us if they can’t find a provider?