Last month at Medtrade Spring, I shared an elevator with an
unhappy provider. Through 22 floors and frequent stops, she ticked
off at least a half dozen things that made her life in the HME
business miserable. She fretted over the effects of a weakened
economy, ranted against reimbursement cuts and yearned for the days
before Uncle Sam stuck his nose deep into the home health care
With a laundry list of woes, this provider said she finally
closed her doors as a result of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Of
course I was saddened, though not surprised, to hear her story. The
wave of bankruptcies, mergers, sell-outs and closings this
legislation has produced is distressing, to say the least.
But considering these laments made me wonder about the
difference between providers who shutter their businesses and
others who prosper under the same conditions. The fact is that
plenty of HME companies did find a way to survive the devastating
effects of the 1997 Act — and everything that has happened in
the changing health care landscape since.
What did you do, for instance, when cuts in oxygen
reimbursements erased a big part of your bottom line? Are you
prepared to cope if competitive bidding comes to pass? (Even the
most optimistic analysts say this could be a watershed.) How do you
make up the shortfall when the landlord decides to double your
rent? There's no end to the daily business-related or
government-generated difficulties in running any HME concern.
So what is it that keeps some companies thriving as others fail?
While there's no simple answer, it does seem that the hardiest
providers share several common traits. Among these are a commitment
to success and a desire to find solutions; a respect for profit and
a realistic view of how to create it; a well-defined business plan;
the flexibility to adjust strategy when market conditions change
and adversity comes calling; and, perhaps most important, a passion
There will never be just one solution to every problem that
business owners face in dealing with the vagaries of market forces,
politicians or landlords. But I suspect we'll find no matter what
obstacles the fates throw HME providers in the months and years
ahead, that once again, the savviest will survive.
Let us hear from you! We welcome your comments by mail to:
HomeCare, 6151 Powers Ferry Rd., Ste. 200, Atlanta, GA 30339; by
fax to (770) 618-0204; or by e-mail to Gail Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org.