The obstacles many of us face with disabilities on a daily basis are challenging enough without having to constantly fight the uphill battle for basic medical supplies we need with insurance companies, durable medical suppliers, and the labyrinth of government assistance. Many of us strive to create and live our lives to the fullest, but we are, oftentimes, faced with one roadblock after another. The sheer determination and will of living with a disability is commendable enough, but there are so many people with disabilities who take that extra step to break the barriers within the business community in order to help their fellow disabled live a more independent life.
Many of the best inventions, most creative solutions, and practical devices we use as disabled patients are created by people who have suffered injuries themselves. They have an intricate and personal knowledge of the needs of others in their community. To open a business and become a successful entrepreneur is no small feat, but as a disabled entrepreneur who has had to overcome many hardships themselves all while finding the time to offer the disabled community a needed product or service, is nothing short of inspiring.
I was recently introduced to Joe Paladino, owner of New Britain Medical Supplies. In 1973, when he was 16 years old, Joe was injured in a car accident leaving him with a spinal cord injury. Awaiting him was a life full of possibilities and endless challenges he would yet have to overcome, and endure. As many of us with spinal cord injuries can relate to, Joe had his fair share of pressure sores, long hospital stays, infections, countless months in rehabilitation, and so much more.
Joe became involved in wheelchair sports and competed in the Olympic Games from 1976-1981 where he met his wife, Lynn, and was married several months later. He has donated money to the Connecticut Chapter of the SCI center and is actively involved in his local community. Joe is a role model for so many and has a wonderful perspective on life – he believes in “showing (people) it’s not how you start, but how you finish.”
Joe tries to remain as active as possible with some of his favorite hobbies including fishing, taking his boat out, swimming, rugby, and kissing his wife!
Before starting New Britain Medical Supplies, Joe served as a transitional counselor and advocate. His mission became one of dedicating his life to helping people with disabilities live an independent and rewarding life. After 15 years of working as a counselor Joe took the leap to open up his own medical supply business.
You must remember, at that time the Internet was not an option for people to pop onto the countless websites we have today to order medical supplies. Joe could not find many companies or people who could relate or understand how important it was to find the right medical supplies to help with the overall health and well-being of the patient. It was no easy feat for Joe to open up a medical supply company as it took him years to get all the licenses to open up the business, get approval for Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance.
Durable Medical Supplies
Taking a step back for a moment, for many of us who are disabled, like myself (a C6 quadriplegic), the last thing I want to think about is the headache of making sure I get my catheters and daily medical supplies on time. I have enough to deal with on a daily basis with the wheelchair, caregivers, working, fighting insurance companies, etc. I want the assurance that the appropriate medical supplies I need to survive will arrive when I need them, and not have to spend hours on the phone trying to fight with companies who got my order wrong or sent me the wrong product.
I’ve spent many years working with large durable medical supply equipment companies, and frankly, I reached my tipping point several months ago when the company I worked with continued to get my order incorrect about 80% of the time. I spent countless hours on the phone trying to get the right medical supplies and figuring out exactly what insurance would or would not cover with my insurance plan.
I met Joe at a time when I needed him most, and I didn’t even know it yet. I learned of Joe and his company, New Britain Medical Supplies, while chatting with him about the need in the disabled community to support one another, and to foster a more entrepreneurial spirit within the disabled community.
This is only possible if we stick together and work together.
I decided to fire my large durable medical supplier and give Joe a try to see if his smaller company would offer a better solution for my medical supply needs. To say I was surprised to the upside would be an understatement. I was not only keen to support disabled entrepreneurs, but I had a desperate need to find someone who understood my situation, and how important it is to get the supplies I need when I need them.
Joe introduced me to his lovely staff up in Connecticut where the company is located. I started out by sending his team a list of the medical supplies I use on a daily basis. Unfortunately, some of the products I used were made exclusively by my previous medical supply company, but his team assured me that they would be able to help me find comparable replacements. Several days later, a box containing free samples of different catheters, under pads, urological supplies, etc. arrived at my doorstep.
Most of the products were exactly what I needed, and the few that were not quite right, well, I called up his staff and they immediately helped me research some alternatives, and sent me further samples. I felt like I had stepped into a medical supply candy store where I was able to taste everything before purchasing anything.
I never had to wait on the phone, and if I left a message, someone called me back shortly. Joe also assured me that in a true emergency he would be able to get supplies sent to me right away, even if it was on a weekend. He even gave me his cell phone number for emergencies.
I was curious, and asked Joe, what happens when you have new customers who are not quite sure what they need? There are so many newly injured patients who come out of rehab with only a bag of supplies the doctors provided them with. Many of these supplies may not fit a particular person and needs change over time.
Joe and his team take their business one step further by helping customers research. When I needed something new from my large durable medical supplier, I would get somebody on the phone who had no idea what half of the products were and could only reference by manufacturer number. They didn’t understand the different types of catheters offer, what some of the advantages or disadvantages of them were or how to answer my questions intelligently, because they simply didn’t understand my needs.
Working with Joe, who has decades of experience working with the disabled community, offered me a sense of comfort that somebody cared and understood what I needed. This allows me to go about my day and live it, rather than spending hours on the phone trying to make sure I have enough catheters on hand at home, which, as many who are disabled will likely relate to, can create immense amounts of anxiety.
Something I could never quite get to grips with is the insurance billing of durable medical supplies across Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies. I’m a pretty good researcher, but I could never get a straight answer from these larger companies about how many of what supplies I was eligible for each month, and how much they would bill me afterwards – especially with private insurance.
I know there are many who are on Medicare / Medicaid, but I have a private insurance company, which may seem great, but makes matters much more complicated.
I spent some time on the phone with a lovely lady in billing at New Britain Medical Supplies and asked her dozens of questions on how to come to grips with understanding the “insurance racket” as it pertains to billing for durable medical supplies.
I received a crash course in insurance billing and while I was unpleasantly surprised from the insurance perspective, I was so grateful that someone took the time to explain how the system works to me.
Medicaid is relatively straightforward with respect to having a certain number of allowed units per month for different medical supplies. Medicaid also offered a lot more products as compared to Medicare and private insurance.
Medicare is a little trickier because there are so many products they do not allow each month, and the ones they do allow are rough estimates.
Finally, private insurance doesn’t have any set guidelines. Each insurance plan is different. I was informed that private insurance usually follows Medicare guidelines, but the only way to really know is to order some supplies, bill insurance, and then insurance will come back with the number of allowable units per month. Alternatively, one can call their insurance company, which I did do, but my head almost popped off. I spent countless hours on the phone with multiple agents offering them the CPT code needed to tell me how many allowable units of the products there were. Half the time I couldn’t get a straight answer, and frankly, I gave up.
I called New Britain Medical back and asked their billing department what an easier solution might be. They came up with a great idea and we decided to slowly upstage my order and bill the insurance company. We would then see step-by-step if my insurance company would cover, for example, 4 or 5 or 6, etc., suprapubic catheters per month. New Britain Medical would do all the work for me, we would stay in contact, and go through the process together. I don’t know of many companies that would go above and beyond in this regard. I’m still going through that process as we speak.
New Britain Medical was kind enough to put together a basic spreadsheet for me of some of the popular products used by so many, what the CPT code is, and allowed units per month for Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance. Naturally, the medical supply list is seemingly endless, but if you ask them to help you put something like this together – they will. Now that’s what I call service!
What makes New Britain Medical Supplies Different?
Whenever you are switching to a new company for a product, the company will likely tell you that they have better service, and go above and beyond for the customer. The classic sales pitch!
As I became better acquainted with Joe, learned of his company, and his contributions to the disabled community – I really wanted to be able to promote a fellow entrepreneur in the community.
In order to do this, I decided the best way was to go through the process of changing durable medical supply companies myself. As they say “Proof is in the Pudding.”
I was treated with respect, was always able to speak with a human being, worked with knowledgeable staff, called Joe personally during the week if I had any questions (to which he was always quick to respond), and was pleasantly surprised at the speediness of my order.
There are a few more key takeaways I gathered after speaking with Joe. He brought up an interesting point about customers transitioning between insurance companies. If this happens, New Britain Medical will offer customers samples and products until their new insurance policy kicks in. Further, in certain financial circumstances, the company will do their best to work with customers to make sure they get their supplies no matter what.
The company will send you free samples until they get the product you want right. Even if you don’t know exactly what you need they will help you research to find out what your needs may be. Tell me a large durable medical supply company that does that for you?
In a world filled with enough complications without a disability, living in a world with a disability adds a further component of complexity. It’s important that we support one another in the disabled community because we understand each other’s needs.
If the circumstances are right and one has the ability, will, determination, and sheer grit to open up a business all while dealing with a disability themselves; we owe it to each other to support them if they offer a meaningful product or service.
Many of the products and services we (in the disabled community) use today are created by those who have experienced many of the challenges we each have, and innovation will continue if we continue to build each other up.
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