When it comes to serving clients with Medicare, Munson Home Health has had the Up North market cornered. But last week, registered nurse Tammy Tarsa and her mother, Anita Carlson, changed that.
The pair’s business, Integrity Skilled Care, located on Cass Street in Traverse City, received its Medicare certification. The new designation means their small, independently owned company can provide Medicare-covered temporary skilled care, like nursing assistance and physical and occupational therapy. Prior to Integrity’s certification, the only local business to provide these services was Munson Home Health.
Tarsa and Carlson started Integrity Skilled Care in 2010. They spent almost two years working toward the Medicare certification, which they received on August 21 after a thorough review of their business plan, policies and procedures, and training.
Tarsa, however, is no newcomer to the business. She’s also the owner of Integrity Home Care, with more than 90 employees, which provides longer-term assistance for homebound patients on a fee-for-service basis. That company won the “Small Business of the Year” award in 2011 from the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Tarsa is proud to say both companies are local and independent – meaning patients get family-like care.
“I think the fact that I am a nurse makes a difference in our business,” she says. “I have very personal reasons for doing what I do, and when I am caring for clients, that comes through.”
Tarsa believes there’s plenty of room in the area for two Medicare-certified home health care businesses. She says the aging baby boomer population and the popularity of northern Michigan as a retirement destination are both big reasons. In Grand Traverse County alone, 13,000 people (15 percent of the population) are 65 or older and eligible for Medicare, according to the 2010 census. Another 19,000 will turn 65 over the next 15 years.
The Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging’s Georgia Durga says there’s currently a waiting list for home health care services. Having two local providers could mean more coverage, and more choice for patients.
“I strongly believe that choice is important, not only for patients but for businesses as well,” Tarsa says. “Competition makes everyone better and if we as providers are always striving to improve, that will benefit all of our patients.”
Kristin Harrison, an RN and Munson’s Home Health business marketing manager, agrees with that assessment.
“Sure, Integrity is our competition,” she says. “But competition is healthy, and it will keep us on our toes."
For now, however, this is still a case of David versus Goliath. Munson currently sees an average of 700 home health patients across 17 counties. Integrity Skilled Care has 14 patients, but expansion plans are in the works, which will include hiring more employees and partnering with Hospice of Michigan.