9.5% cut: Rehab groups to study aftermath

Sunday, December 21, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine - Medicare's 9.5% nationwide reimbursement cut goes into effect in less than two weeks and the complex rehab industry stands ready to document the fallout.

The industry already has a hint of what's to come: An NCART study released in September found that 95% of 184 responding complex rehab providers will reduce or eliminate product choice due to the cut; 87% will reduce or eliminate off-site assessments and evaluations; and 88% will reduce or eliminate the availability of demo equipment.

"That predicts what might happen, but we need to know exactly what's going to happen," said Sharon Hildebrandt, executive director of NCART.

NCART plans to conduct a similar survey of its members after the cut goes into effect Jan. 1, Hildebrandt said.

Additionally, at the request of The Clinician Task Force, roughly 30 therapists nationwide will collect data to determine how provider involvement and other factors are affected by the cut. The task force has asked the therapists to submit a survey for each Medicare patient recommended for a power wheelchair. Questions include: Was trial equipment used; did the product specified meet the client's needs; was the provider part of the evaluation; and did or will the provider conduct a home equipment trial?

"We expect that suppliers will no longer be able to provide the same level of trial equipment and they won't be able to go out to patients homes to try stuff for accessibility," said Laura Cohen, co-coordinator of The Clinician Task Force.

Therapists will continue collecting data until March.