A day in the life of a provider consumer

Friday, May 23, 2014

I stepped into Tim’s home unsure of what to expect. I had never spent a day documenting the life of anyone. As Tim led the conversation, his passion for people came to the surface. We had something in common. My nerves settled. It became apparent that his two roles, wheelchair user and durable medical equipment provider, were fueling his efforts to push for Medicare reform. 

The life of a wheelchair user isn’t easy. Without a support network, financial resources and functioning equipment, daily life can be extremely challenging. As we walked through his home, which was custom built to fit his needs, I found myself asking, “What would I do if I were to become paralyzed and rely on a wheelchair?” It was as if Tim heard my silent question and expressed that you just deal with what life throws at you. He recognized his privilege and began sharing how lucky he was to have the financial resources he needs, as well as his wife Angela. Without the two, his life would be drastically different. 

Tim credited wrestling as the source of his determination. The sport left him paralyzed at 19, yet he uses lessons from the sport every day. “There are going to be days when no one is going to help you,” he said. “That’s when you have to look yourself in the mirror and find the determination to get up.” 

We spent the majority of our day at Tim’s business, Advanced Rehab Technologies. After he showed us his inventory and introduced us to his staff, he opened up about the problems and internal conflicts he faces. Prior to recent Medicare changes, he was able to help everyone who walked through his doors. He went above and beyond to help people, because he knew what it was like to rely on functioning medical equipment. But now, strict government regulations are forcing his staff to spend days combing through paperwork to make sure it is finished correctly. Tim’s business has been slammed with more than $300,000 in audit fines for simple clerical errors, such as illegible doctor’s signatures. 

I could see and feel Tim’s desperation. He doesn’t want to fail customers that he has been serving for years, but he knows that to stay in business he will have to turn some of them away. This was painful to hear. Advanced Rehab Technologies was the business he started and loved; however, the future is uncertain for him and many other durable medical equipment providers. 

Tim led us back to the front of the building and got to work. I marveled as I watched the interactions between him and his staff. He was joking, laughing and leading operations with a positive attitude. “That’s just how Tim is,” said one of his staff members. “I started working here when I was 16 and haven’t left.”  

Back at Tim’s home, we finished on a positive note. We listened to family stories, looked at his son’s art project, and read his daughter’s essay titled “Hero.” In it, she told her father’s story and how she considered him to be a hero. She wrote about his strength and his ability to overcome adversity, and how he is a great father. My eyes filled with tears. 

After saying our goodbyes, I walked to the car with renewed determination to share the stories of people like Tim. People affected by Medicare policies are more than statistics in a report. They are real people that deserve attention and care, especially from legislators. As long as there are stories like Tim’s, People for Quality Care will push for Medicare reform. 

We thank Tim and his family for being courageous to open up their lives to the world. We know it isn’t easy.  

Learn more about Medicare issues that beneficiaries face by visiting www.dearmedicare.com.

Lalaina Rabary is the communications and marketing specialist for People for Quality Care.