Louisiana tables rehab standards

Thursday, July 31, 2003

BATON ROUGE, La. - The state’s Health and Welfare Committee has tabled a bill that would require quality standards for custom rehab providers in order to study it further.

The House considered the bill during the last week of the state’s legislative session in June, but there were too many questions clouding the bill for a vote to take place, according to Rep. Sydnie M. Durand (D-Parks), who is chair of the committee. The most debated of those questions: What is a custom wheelchair?

“It’s a very controversial bill,” Durand said.

When the bill was being considered in the House, a handful of representatives wanted to attach multi-page amendments, Durand said.

“When I saw that, I knew we couldn’t do it justice in the time we had,” she said. “Everybody wanted a piece of the action, and you can’t be a referee.”

As currently written, the bill doesn’t specify what a custom wheelchair is. It says only that, “…in order to be enrolled in the Louisiana Medical Assistance Program, a provider which supplies customized wheelchairs shall be required to submit written verification to the Department of Health and Hospitals that it has an Assistive Technology Supplier credentialed by the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of America (RESNA).”

The writers of a Tennessee bill requiring quality standards for rehab providers defined custom wheelchairs to avoid this very predicament, according to Darren Jernigan, director of government affairs for the Nashville, Tenn.-based Permobil. The bill uses the Medicare K codes to define custom wheelchairs; all but the K0001, K0002, K0003, K0004 and K0006 apply, he said.

The Tennessee bill was recently signed into law, and the state’s Board for Licensing Healthcare Facilities will implement it next year.

“We wanted to be real clear, so that there wasn’t room for the board to vary,” Jernigan said. “If you leave it up to a board, things could get political. We shouldn’t be too far off from what we’ve laid out.”

In Louisiana, a study committee will be formed in March to help determine whether there’s a need for a law requiring quality standards, and if there is a need, what is needed, Durand said. The committee will look to various groups for information, including consumers.

Without the motion to table and study the bill, it would have died in the House, Durand said.