Carve out: Industry courts consumers

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WASHINGTON - Industry stakeholders know they need the help of consumers to carve out complex rehab from national competitive bidding, but that could be easier said than done.
"It's our biggest barrier," said Don Clayback, who heads up The MED Group's National Rehab Network. "We need to deliver a message that holds some personal consequences for (disability organizations and consumers), so they don't think it's just an industry or business issue."
Therein lies the rub, according to industry stakeholders. Disability organizations often focus on bigger issues like accessible housing, they say, taking for granted the power wheelchairs that allow consumers to stay independent.
"What good are handicap parking spaces when you can't get out of the house because you don't have an appropriate wheelchair?" asked Mike Seidel, president of NRRTS.
The ITEM Coalition, which represents 70 member organizations, including disability organizations, continues to monitor competitive bidding, said spokeswoman Emily Niederman.
"We're concerned that complex rehab has been included in competitive bidding," she said. "But it's too early for us to make a statement. We're not sure that it's necessarily a coverage issue."
(Niederman pointed out that several members of the coalition supported the carve-out bill last year, and she expects them to do the same this year.)
There's no question in the industry's mind, however, that competitively bidding complex rehab will result in reduced access to power wheelchairs, or at least appropriate chairs.
"We need to get (disability organizations and consumers) to realize this is serious," Clayback said. "First, a provider's going to say, 'I can't give you as reliable a chair.' Then he's going to say, 'I can't keep my doors open.' That affects them."