'I think we'll be OK'

Friday, February 29, 2008

YARMOUTH, Maine -Despite bumps in the road here and there, most providers reported in January that they already meet CMS's requirement that they have assistive technology suppliers (ATSs) on staff to sell certain power wheelchairs beginning April 1, 2008. If not, they were well on their way.
"We have one employee who has already taken the exam and passed it, and we have four more employees taking it next week," said Jim Travis, president of Buffalo Wheelchair in West Seneca, N.Y., in late January. "We want all employees who deal with wheelchair customers to have the credential."
Originally, CMS also planned to require that independent assistive technology providers (ATPs) conduct evaluations for certain power wheelchairs beginning April 1, 2008. The agency dropped that requirement in December.
Provider Michael Calcaterra was on his way to having two ATS-certified employees in January, but one employee left the company.
"That has backed me up a little bit, but I think we'll be OK," said Calcaterra, who manages Norco's Missoula, Mont., branch. "I have mixed emotions about the requirement. You need (ATSs), but we have a pretty big rehab market to cover."Norco has branches scattered across six states (Montana, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington) with large rural areas.
Other providers grumbled about CMS forcing them to get certified, despite years and years of experience, and about the shortfalls of RESNA's ATS exam.
"I've been doing this 25 years, and it's kind of a slap in the face," said David Chestnut, owner of Pennyrile Home Medical in Cadiz, Ky. "It's like all of my experience has meant nothing. From taking the test, I know if someone who had never done a high-end chair before and just studied, they'd probably pass."
Providers who do some but not much power wheelchairs reported having the most difficulty meeting the requirement on time.
"It's not a big part of our business, but I want to be educated, and I don't want to turn down any business that comes my way," said Mary King, president of Golden Care Supplies in Columbus City, Ind. "At the same time, we just went through accreditation, and that took a lot of our after hours. There are only so many in a day."
In late January, King's husband, Dick King, was in the process of completing the 30 contact hours of training and education required to apply for the ATS credential. He then had to sit for the exam and wait six to eight weeks for his results.
"We're running down to the wire," King said.