Consumer outreach: Do what you can to help

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Q. How can I best explain to a client why he or she no longer qualifies for the same level of equipment?

A. Indeed, providers find themselves as the intermediary between the insurers instituting cuts and frustrated consumers. A prime example is in the power wheelchair segment, where seven years ago, a consumer likely had access to funding for a high-speed, long-range power base. Today, that consumer discovers that his or her insurance now only covers lower-speed, shorter-range models. Compounding the funding shortfalls: It’s left up to the provider to explain why higher-end products are no longer funded in many cases and to turn the negatives of the situation into positives.

Informing consumers of funding cuts and changes in coverage criteria for power wheelchairs is vital. Let them know that you and the HME industry have been advocating on their behalf for many years and continue to do so despite the enacted cuts and policy changes. Encourage consumers to share their stories and frustrations with their legislators. Get their voices heard.

Emphasize the positives of the technology that is available and funded, demonstrating that you’re helping to make the most out of a bad situation. Maybe they’re frustrated by the slower speeds of power wheelchairs that are now funded; you can emphasize advances in suspension and maneuverability.

Help consumers find secondary funding solutions to meet their needs, exploring sources like vocational rehabilitation funding, grants from condition-specific organizations, or out-of-pocket upgrades via options like Medicare’s ABN protocol.

In the end, although the funding climate is detrimental to life-sustaining HME, consumers will be reassured by one simple fact: Knowing that you’re on their side and you’re willing to do whatever you can to help.

Mark Smith is the consumer research manager for Pride Mobility Products Corp. Reach him at 800-800-8586 or