Industry steps up PR efforts for mobility

Thursday, April 1, 2010

ARLINGTON, Va. - AAHomecare has a new name for itself: the "truth squad."

In March, the association and its Complex Rehab Mobility Council (CRMC) set into motion a public relations campaign that it hopes will put an end to, or at least put a dent in, the recycled news stories about the big difference between Medicare and Internet pricing for power wheelchairs.

"The OIG's Internet pricing myth is one of those issues that keeps rising like a monster in a one of those Hollywood horror movies," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president of communications and policy. "Even after you put a stake in it, it still rises from the grave. We want to truth squad the OIG."

To guide its efforts, AAHomecare has created a steering committee and hired Frisby & Associates, a Washington. D.C.-based PR firm that used to represent Restore Access to Mobility Partnership (RAMP).

The PR campaign will involve reacting "swiftly"—in the same news cycle, if possible—to OIG reports about power wheelchair pricing and related issues, Reinemer said.

"We want to make sure we get a fair shake," he said.

The campaign sent out its first blast fax, called "Mobility Matters," to members of Congress and officials at regulatory agencies in March, and it also plans to work with the mainstream media to publish stories that portray providers and the needs of their patients more accurately.

"We're trying to put a public face on mobility issues," said Tim Pederson, a member of the steering committee, chairman of the CRMC and CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D.

AAHomecare isn't the only group looking to step up its PR efforts. NRRTS plans to create a short video with footage from its Continuing Education and Legislative Advocacy Conference (CELA) in April and shop it around to TV shows like "Oprah."

"It's going to be more of a human interest piece on how well people with complex rehab products and services can function in the mainstream, and how, without them, they can't," said Simon Margolis, NRRTS's executive director. "People don't want to stand against people with disabilities; they just don't understand what's involved."