Dealers Discuss: Tom Bradley, President, Petersen Medical

Describe your company’s background.
Petersen Medical was founded in 1968 by Brad Petersen. They actually started out as a pharmacy, and then they moved, some time in the mid ’70s, to a durable medical equipment provider. In the mid ’80s, they dropped the pharmacy side altogether and just continued with HME. I started working for Petersen Medical as a subcontractor in 2000, and I had started my own medical supply company in a smaller, rural town off the Wasatch Front. After working for Petersen Medical as a subcontractor for about a year and a half, I had the opportunity to acquire them. In September 2001, I bought Petersen Medical and kept the name because they’d been around so long. They’re one of the longest standing businesses in Utah County.

What core respiratory products do you provide?
Definitely our base is respiratory. We provide home oxygen and oximetry testing, CPAP, biPAP and nebulizers. We don’t provide any of the meds.

What is the largest segment of your respiratory business?
It’s home oxygen.

You have participated in some recent efforts to modify competitive bidding. Talk about those efforts.
Last fall, we met with Sen. Orrin Hatch in Salt Lake City. He came to an office up there — one of our competitors — and we educated him on competitive bidding and the oxygen cap. We were successful in getting him to introduce legislation, the Senate companion bill for the Hobson-Tanner bill. So, he’s definitely in support of us in that regard.

Our state has not had a state association for HME, so it was during that time that we put together a state association of which I currently serve as the president. It’s doing very well. We’ve had a fantastic response; we’ve had great attendance at our meetings.

A couple of weeks ago, we met with Congressman Chris Cannon, who came to my facility and we gave him a tour.

He had some great questions in regards to the respiratory side, and he became more aware of the complexities of our industry. He’s co-sponsoring H.R. 621, which is the one to rescind the oxygen cap. So we’re going to continue moving forward and trying to educate our legislators on the ramifications of these bills if they don’t get some of these amended and the impact that will have on, first and foremost, our beneficiaries and on the industry as a whole and how detrimental it will be.

Is partnering with local competitors to work with legislators something you would encourage other providers to do?
Absolutely. Right now, we can either stand alone and fade away or we can stand together and survive. Without that unity, I don’t think that we’re going to be as strong of an industry as we need to be.

What steps has your company taken to prepare for competitive bidding? Are you already accredited?
We are very close to being accredited (at press time). We’ve spent the last year preparing. We’re submitting our application for survey. We’re ready to be surveyed at this point. We’ve been involved with competitive bidding on a state level; we’re the sole source provider for Medicaid oxygen for the state of Utah. We’re very familiar with it. We understand how to operate on decreased margins. In that respect, we’re prepared. The next steps that we’re going to be taking are trying to understand how to submit a good bid and how to write a contract.

What do you believe are the most pressing challenges facing respiratory today?
I would have to say the increased quality standards coupled with the decreased reimbursement is really presenting somewhat of a dilemma. Medicare — and rightfully so — wants to make sure that we have the most highly trained, qualified individuals out visiting our beneficiaries and taking care of the respiratory needs. But at the same time, they’re wanting to reimburse as though we were employing high school students.

This article originally appeared in the Respiratory Management May/June 2007 issue of HME Business.

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