This is a good problem to have

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

There's a detail that I failed to report in my coverage of CELA in the June issue: 60 of the 166 rehab industry and clinical professionals that participated in the event were there representing ATG Rehab. ATG Rehab scheduled its annual meeting in the Washington, D.C., area the same week as CELA to make it as easy as possible for its RTSs and ATPs to participate in the Capitol Hill visits.

It's something that Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS, which organizes CELA, pointed out to me a few times at the event. If the RTSs and ATPs from ATG Rehab weren't there, the rehab industry would have had 36% fewer feet (not including consumers) pounding the pavement to drum up support for a separate benefit for complex rehab.

That's a big deal. It's such a big deal that, at Medtrade Spring in May, someone asked me: Why aren't the other large regional complex rehab providers, like National Seating & Mobility and United Seating & Mobility, following suit?

That's a good question. If CELA also had the drawing power of NSM and USM, I bet it would have as many participants as AAHomecare does for its Washington Legislative Conference, an industry-wide event that drew a crowd of nearly 300 this year. But before we go calling NSM and USM on the carpet, consider this:

"We're finding that having huge numbers is not necessarily the goal of a conference like ours, because if we had 500 people, that means there'd be 30 people in a delegation going to see a congressman or a senator," Margolis said. "That's not going to work. So we think turnout isn't as important as getting consumers (involved) who have folks on committees with jurisdiction over Medicare and making sure we have knowledgeable, articulate industry professionals who can really tell the story."

That makes sense. Even this year, when I was shadowing some industry professionals and consumers during meetings with lawmakers, some of us stayed behind when it looked like it was going to be too big of a group.

In the past, however, the industry has promoted this image of providers and consumers storming Capitol Hill en mass. As such, I'm skeptical of the industry downplaying participation in these events, especially after years of stakeholders criticizing them for sitting on the sidelines. Is there a way for the industry to continue its rallying call but make the most of its lobbying efforts?

What if CELA took applications or nominations for the actual providers that get to attend the meetings with lawmakers? Or what if CELA assigned only one meeting to each provider?

Or what if, in the spirit of including as many providers as possible, there's a secondary event where, during one of the Congressional recesses, NRRTS schedules appointments, much like it does for CELA, for representatives and senators to visit a provider or a group of providers in their home districts?

This is a good problem to have, but it's one the industry needs to address. hme