What? Are you kidding me? This ain't no therapy session, pal

 - 
12/17/2009

You know what I hate? I hate to write something for HME News and then for some reason never publish it. Occasionally, and this really burns me, I'll interview someone for a half hour,  get some great information and use it as the basis for a story, only to have the person call me up a while later and say: "All that stuff we talked about earlier, that's just between you and me. Don't write a story. Okay?"

When that happens, I'm like, "What? Are you serious? Listen you knucklehead: I didn't spend a half hour on the phone with you just so you could get something off your chest. This ain't no therapy session, pal. I've got a paper to fill."

Of course, I don't really say that. It's all in my head. What I say out loud is something like: "I hate you, and want to rip your eyes out."

Jeepers.

Anyway, this all leads to, in a round about fashion, to two of the things I detest most: waste and clutter. When I write something, I hate not to run it: That's waste. And often times, when I don't run something, it just sits in a folder on my desktop taking up valuable space: That's clutter.

With that in mind, here are two short stories I wrote last summer. They never made it into HME News because we've had a ton of essential news—from health care reform to PECOS to oxygen reform to complex rehab to etc.—that ate up most of our space and relegated these little guys to the sidelines.

That was unfortunate but necessary. Sometimes the little stories are the ones I like most. They are not always stories you have to read, but they are often stories you ought to read. That's how I feel about these.

Dead men walking

When you consider what providers have gone through this year—a 9.5% reimbursement cut and the oxygen cap, for starters, and competitive bidding on the horizon—the wreckage so far has not been all that bad.

There’s been no wave of bankruptcies or providers going out of business. But it could be just a matter of time before that happens, said Carl Will, senior vice president, North American Homecare, for Invacare.

“You probably have a lot of people who are dead men walking and don't even realize they are dead yet,” he said.

That’s because it takes four to six months before reimbursement cuts begin to affect provider cash flow. With that in mind, the number of providers going out of business should pick up this fall, he said.

(Will turned out to be more clairvoyant than I think he may have realized. Check out this story we ran in November.)

Cash, check or credit card

When it comes to Group 3 power wheelchairs these days, the old high-performance bases are becoming a thing of the past. The current reimbursement won’t support such robust offerings, said Tim Pederson, CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D.

Given that, it’s critical that manufacturers do everything possible to make Group 3 wheelchairs that enhance a provider’s margin—and that goes beyond pricing, Pederson said.

“It has to not just be trouble free, but easy to service,” he said. “Batteries need to be accessible. The motors need to be accessible. There are a lot of things at play here.”

As for customers who want a Group 3 wheelchair more appropriate for yesterday’s reimbursement than today’s, Pederson knows exactly what to say.

“That’s why we have the ABN,” he says. “If someone want bells and whistles, we’re happy to provide them, but it’s cash, check or credit card.”

— Mike Moran