Part of the Picture
When Mike Marnhout looks into the murky future for the home medical equipment industry, one thing is clear: His company will be a part of it.
He fully recognizes that it will not look the same, but Bluegrass Oxygen, based in Lexington, Ky., will still be in the HME picture, he says firmly. In fact, Marnhout says, he plans to grow.
Grow? In this environment where, it seems, HME is the target of relentless reimbursement cuts, ever-stiffer regulations and calamitous projects such as competitive bidding, which threatens to shut down massive numbers of HME providers altogether?
“There's always an opportunity in life and in business,” Marnhout says. “You do what you can with those opportunities.”
It's a philosophy that has paid off for Marnhout, who has been in the business for 29 years and who started Bluegrass 13 years ago. In addition to headquarters in Lexington, Bluegrass Oxygen has five other locations and boasts 47 employees.
“We cover about 122 counties and six states — Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee,” Marnhout says.
Evidence of his faith in the future is Bluegrass' new $1 million, 18,000-sq.-ft. administrative hub. The company, which formerly had housed its billing and administrative functions in two rented buildings, moved into its new home June 1. The new nerve center also serves as a central warehouse and an intake center, Marnhout says.
And he's got even bigger plans.
“We're going to have our own repair center for oxygen concentrators. I've got the room to do it. And we are looking at doing all of our own refills,” the Bluegrass president and CEO says. “We're buying a truck and we're doing it. You've got to streamline.”
The Writing on the Wall
If all this sounds a bit too enthusiastic in this glum and often-frightening HME era, make no mistake. Marnhout might revel in the notion that his new headquarters is three minutes from his home and five minutes from the golf course, but he's a serious provider with keen business instincts. He knows very well the threats to this industry and the perilous positions in which some providers find themselves.
When he talks about taking advantage of opportunities, Marnhout recognizes that some are not in a position to do that. “Some [companies] can't because they are so heavily loaded with Medicare, and it crushed them,” he says. “Fortunately, we are big enough to absorb this.”
Not that his business has not been hurt.