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'This is where we shine'

'This is where we shine'

Whether it’s a global pandemic, a natural disaster or a poorly thought-out government policy, independent HME providers say they will continue to show up for patients.

BritKare recently donated wheelchairs and oxygen tanks to help vaccination efforts at the Amarillo Civic Center in Amarillo, Texas, where large turnouts have meant lengthy waits in line for seniors, including owner Josh Britten’s grandmother.

“She has COPD and when she had issues with the long line, we knew others like her would,” said Britten, owner of the family-owned business, which his father launched in 1994. “We were happy to help the city in any way we could.”

Several weeks later, a devastating winter storm knocked out much of the region’s power, underscoring the importance of providers with community ties, said Britten.

“This is where we shine,” he said. “(This shows) the importance of having good local and regional providers instead of just taking the lowest bid. In Texas, they are having to bring in emergency relief for oxygen patients or they are ending up back in the hospital. We’ve been able to take care of our patients and provide for them.”

But these days, providers with community ties are harder and harder to come by, whether it be due to Medicare’s competitive bidding program or to acquisitions.

“We do feel very alone,” said Laurie Bachorek, COO of Grand Prairie-based MetroCare Home Medical Equipment. “The acquisitions happening are pretty significant and we see our friendly competitors going one by one by one.”

For those left standing, there’s a strong sense of community, they say.

“We were calling on other DMEs, they were calling us – it’s a joint effort,” said one Houston-based provider, of its efforts in the storm’s aftermath. “Everything we did, handing out batteries for vents, we did it for free. We will not be reimbursed for that. It’s a shame that Medicare just looks down upon us. When situations like this happen, we come through every time.”


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