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Listen up HME News: Main Street matters and retail sales don't

Listen up HME News: Main Street matters and retail sales don't

We sent the September issue to the printers yesterday. That means we started cold calling providers this morning, trying to drum up some news for the next issue. I'm 12 cold calls in to my usual 20 calls per day for three days, and, already, I've been on the other line of two providers making some pretty strong statements. Maybe the criticism providers have for everything from competitive bidding to PECOS to audits has spilled over to HME News?

The first of the two providers mentioned above told me:

"I want to hear more from Main Street America than the Invacares and the Sunrise Medicals. Because I know people are in trouble. I helped a woman, an RN, start a DME company in San Jose and she does a magnificent job, but she's in a competitive bidding area and she's in trouble. How's the little guy in Georgia doing? How about the little guy in Texas? I'm curious what's happening to them."

I agree that industry lobbyists like Cara Bachenheimer, Seth Johnson, Walt Gorski and company make regular appearances in our weekly HME NewsWires, but that's because there's a lot going on legislatively right now and they're based on the Hill, which, now that I think of it, you could call the Main Street of Washington, D.C. (I am very thankful, by the way, that Cara, Seth, Walt and company allow me to bug them every week for stories in the NewsWire.)

If you look at our print publication, I told the provider, you'll see dozens of stories about that little guy in Georgia. When you get the September issue in the mail, check out the story on Rick Perrotta, a little guy in the not so little city of Charlotte, N.C., who's trying to figure out why his power wheelchair business is down 30%. Or check out the story on diabetes providers from everywhere from Woburn, Mass., to Wellington, Fla., who are trying to make sense of a whopping 56% reduction in Medicare reimbursement for supplies thanks to competitive bidding.

We got some heat not too long ago for our NewsWire being too "negative." Now this.

But I'm not unhappy about this kind of feedback. I'm excited. It gets me thinking. In addition to including more positive stories, maybe we need to make more of a point in our NewsWires of including more stories about the little guys. Although those are the stories that frequently land in your mailbox each month in the form of the print publication, they're less likely to land in your inbox in the form of the NewsWire.

Coincidentally, we're already taking a crack at this. After noticing that one of the most read NewsWire stories in July was about Jim Greatorex adding retail items like mattresses and shoes with coil springs to his product mix this summer, we decided to include at least one provider-centric story in our NewsWire each week. That story in this week's NewsWire: Steve Serra and his new retail model for HME.

Speaking of retail, the second of the two providers told me:

"I think it's funny that every HME News I receive talks about, 'Get cash sales; profit from cash sales.' People don't pay cash for this stuff. The age group that's using DME right now—they're of the mindset that insurance is supposed to pay for this stuff. Until my generation stars using DME, I don't see that changing. We're used to paying for everything; they're not. Until then, I think it's a bad idea."

This provider caught me off guard. Too much coverage on the need for providers to diversify their product mix away from Medicare by increasing retail sales? Although I'm not sure I agree with this provider, he makes a good point, one that he wouldn't go on the record as saying, because, let's face it, in this new era of competitive bidding, some providers are holding on to retails sales like a lifeline.

Anyone else feel like this provider? Should we tone down our retail sales rallying call?

Anyway, I'm off to make cold call 13. Maybe it'll be you. What will you have to say? I'm all ears.

Liz Beaulieu


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