California requires rehab certification

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California recently became one of a dozen or so states to require that qualified rehab professionals have a hand in providing custom mobility devices.
Beginning July 1, 2006, providers who want to do business with Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, must employ or contract professionals with one of the following qualifications on their resume: physical or occupational therapist, National Registry of Rehab Technology Suppliers (NRRTS) registration or Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) certification.
"This industry continues to deal with problems in the provider community among a small group that may provide more than what a patient needs," said Bob Acherman, executive director of the California Association of Medical Product Suppliers (CAMPS), which sponsored the regulation. "It's appropriate that you have mechanisms in place that not only serve as best practices but also reduce or eliminate the prospects for abusive or fraudulent activity."
The regulation was signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in October and has a delayed implementation date to allow providers "lead time to be in compliance," Acherman said. Otherwise, it would have been implemented Jan. 1, 2006.
CAMPS wanted both NRRTS and RESNA designations accepted, so the regulation wouldn't "disenfranchise" anyone, Acherman said. Other states have required one or the other, and in Georgia, providers must employ professionals of both.
"People can respectfully differ as to whether or not a RESNA certified person is more knowledgeable, and I think some people would certainly make that argument and are probably correct," Acherman said. "But why do you need that? What type of equipment are you providing?"
The regulation will likely affect 225 providers in California. That's how many providers have billed Medi-Cal for custom rehab equipment over the past year, according to Acherman.
The July 1, 2006, implementation date won't be a big deal for providers like Wheelchairs of Berkeley, which already counts two OTs with NRRTS registrations as staff. But that's not why Manager Sue Martinson applauds the regulation.
"Any time we can move away from the Kmart-type places or drug stores providing custom rehab, it's a good thing--only because we're the ones that end up having to correct problems, and it's difficult to become involved that late in the game," she said.
As proof of the importance of qualified rehab professionals, Martinson pointed out that at her company, in 90% of cases, the OTs have a hand in providing equipment.