ATP shortage: Providers vie for ATPs in 'competitive' market

Friday, January 25, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – A good ATP is hard to find, industry stakeholders say.

There are more than 3,800 active ATPs listed on RESNA’s website, and about 3,000 of them list seating and positioning as one of their specialties, but the industry is finding that’s not nearly enough. 

“There are always employers looking for ATPs, especially in parts of the country with aging populations like Florida, Nevada and Arizona,” said Andrea Van Hook, RESNA communications and marketing manager. “It’s a competitive field.”

More people have taken RESNA’s ATP exam since Medicare began requiring providers to have an ATP on staff to bill for complex rehab. Other payers, most recently Texas Medicaid in 2012, have followed suit. 

With demand high, why aren’t more people training to become ATPs? 

For starters, it requires a special skill set, says provider Scott Soderquist.

“They need a strong sales background, knowledge from the medical field, mechanical skills and creativity,” said Soderquist, president of Rehab Equipment Associates in Manchester, N.H. “You need the right personality and there’s a big learning curve.”

Many providers with employees who fit those criteria provide pre-test training and help them meet RESNA’s other ATP requirements. 

On the other hand, acquiring an established ATP brings the added bonus of acquiring his or her connections.

“These complex rehab businesses that are being acquired have no value except for the ATP’s book of business,” said Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS. “You can either poach someone else’s ATP or acquire the companies.”

ATP Jeff Decker says a lot of providers, facing competitive bidding and reimbursement cuts in traditional HME, think hiring established ATPs will help their bottom line more quickly.

“I get job offers all the time,” said Decker, who works for Medical Solutions of Arkansas. “It takes years to develop relationships with rehab clinics—a lot won’t let new people in. They need to trust you to make decisions for their clients.”

Still, there are pitfalls in hiring ATPs away from competitors, says Don Clayback. The best move is to develop ATPs internally since companies work hard to keep the best ATPs on staff, and often ATPs may have signed contracts preventing them from working in the area if they leave, he says. 

“You have to wonder why they’re willing to leave their company,” said Clayback, executive director of NCART.