All eyes on Georgia Medicaid

Thursday, February 28, 2002

ATLANTA - Now that the window for re/hab providers to obtain a National Registry of Re/hab Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) membership expired last month, it seems the entire re/hab world has its eyes on the Georgia Medicaid program.

South Carolina is reportedly looking to require that its re/hab providers sign up with the organization, too, and is watching closely to see what happens in Georgia (See HME News Jan. 15, 2002). More recently, Oregon and Kentucky have also looked to follow Georgia's lead, according to Dave Kruse, president of NRRTS and CEO of the Milwaukie, Ore.-based Wheelchair Works Inc.

Patricia Ross, the mastermind behind the first-of-its-kind requirement, said she doesn't mind the attention. Things have gone smoothly, with the exception of a handful of providers who were unprepared or "who didn't want to be told what to do," she said.

"No provider can be negative about this and be serious about what they do," said Ross, program specialist for the Georgia Department of Community Health, Division of Medical Assistance. "We're not going to coddle anyone anymore. We've given them an entire year."

Ross said beginning last month, providers fitting for custom wheelchairs and seating systems were not allowed to bill for certain codes (including but not limited to E1212NU, E1230NU, Y0246NU, E1220NU, K0108NU and Y0299NU) without a NRRTS membership, or at least a membership in progress.

Currently, 39 of the organization's 700 members are located in Georgia, according to Judy Vance, an administrator for NRRTS. There are 21 memberships in progress and another 80 that have been received, she said.

Weesie Griffin, manager of National Seating and Mobility's Atlanta branch, said she welcomed the requirement as a way to wash away some of the sludge that non-professional providers have spewed on the re/hab industry's reputation.

"We don't want to be able to sell cars one week and sell wheelchairs the next," said Griffin, an assistive technology supplier (ATS) and a certified re/hab technology supplier (CRTS) who's a member of NRRTS. "This is such an important part of people's lives, and if it's done incorrectly, there are massive repercussions, including expenses that add and add up."

Kruse, president of NRRTS, said Georgia's initiative has been so well received that the organization's board of directors has begun promoting the idea to other states, Oregon and Kentucky being two of them.

"As president, I've been looking for a project that could be my legacy to the organization, and this is it," he said. "We're going to start pushing this."

Ross said she realizes the requirement is only a tool and that providers will always find a way to abuse the system, but NRRTS's codes of ethics, standards of practice and membership requirements, will go a long way to making Medicaid a higher-quality program. (As an alternative, Georgia also allows successful completion of the Rehabilitation, Engineering and Assistive Technology Society's (RESNA) ATS certification.)

And Ross said the NRRTS membership won't be the only tool in her toolbox. In the future, she hopes to require certifications from providers, such as ATS, as well as accreditation by a national accrediting agency like JCAHO. HME