Language delays Permobil act

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A Tennessee House subcommittee put off plans to vote on an initiative to require rehab credentialing April 2 after stakeholders in the proposal disagreed on language in the legislation.

The “Consumer Protection Act for Wheeled Mobility,” drafted by Permobil, was to require that any company providing prescribed wheeled mobility devices (except for K0001, K0002, K0003, and K0006 chair) should have on staff a member of NRRTS or an ATS or ATP as certified by RESNA.

If passed into law, Tennessee would be the first state in the country to legally mandate elevated credentials for rehab providers. Although Georgia now requires its rehab providers to be members of NRRTS or an ATS/ATP, that regulation was imposed by the state’s Medicaid program.

“In Georgia, a governor could change that policy,” said Darren Jernigan, Permobil’s director of government affairs. “Here it would be law.”

Tennessee’s proposed law must still hurdle three committees, and wage an even tougher fight in the senate, before passage. Last month, objections to the NRRTS requirement stalled an attempt at the first hurdle when a mobility supplier/manufacturer, Hoveround, balked.

In recent years, Hoveround said, it has unsuccessfully tried to enlist its rehab technology suppliers in NRRTS. The company’s director of corporate development, Calvin Cole, said former NRRTS members who’ve come to work for Hoveround have had their memberships rescinded.

“No club or organization that is discriminatory should have any part of federal dollars,” said Cole. “We’ll fight it all the way we have to, and will until they change their practices.”

NRRTS defends its exclusion of Hoveround by noting that Hoveround, as a manufacturer of power chairs, does not meet a critical criteria of membership.

“To be a member, you have to offer a variety of product choices from multiple product lines,” said a NRRTS spokesperson. “They are a manufacturer and they do not offer product choices.”

Hoveround is also a supplier of powered mobility products.

NRRTS has 22 members in Tennessee, working out of 13 locations.

In compromise, Permobil has agreed to remove membership in NRRTS as a requirement but to retain the standards adhered to by NRRTS members. Hoveround said it had no problem with the ATS or ATP designation.

The Tennessee Association for Home Care approved of the NRRTS requirement but has opposed legislation that would require its members to become ATS or ATP certified, according to Jernigan. The association, he said, aims to protect the mobility business of DME providers who supply a few chairs per year and for whom ATS or ATP certification would be prohibitive.

The association was unavailable for comment.

Despite the objections, Jernigan believes the bill’s boosters have the votes to get the proposal through the subcommittee, and through two more house committees. HME