NCART documents impact: 'It was an emotional day'

Monday, August 31, 2009

WASHINGTON -NCART in July began distributing a powerful video, "All's NOT Well in Wellsville," to illustrate how repeated cuts to Medicare reimbursement have affected access to complex rehab equipment and services.

In the video, an occupational therapist at the Alleghany Arc in Wellsville, N.Y., describes how she couldn't access equipment or services for her patients for more than a year due to cuts and geography (Wellsville is a rural town in the southern part of the state). The interview is interspersed with footage of patients, including one sitting in a wheelchair that has been duct-taped together.

"As we've dealt with the impact of the cuts, we've struggled with how to really tell this story," said Don Clayback, NCART's executive director. "In this video, the message is clear: There's a crisis here."

NCART plans to distribute the video to lawmakers to educate them on the impact of the 9.5% reimbursement cut that went into effect this year and a 27% cut, on average, that went into effect in 2006.

The video also features interviews with patients (one asks, point-blank: "Why is it so hard to make it easier?") and provider Doug Westerdahl, who breaks down when talking about the future of complex rehab providers and their patients.

"It was an emotional day," said Westerdahl, president of NCART and president of Monroe Wheelchair in Rochester, N.Y., which now services Alleghany Arc. "Since my business has grown, I haven't fitted wheelchairs in years. So to see what was happening--it hit me pretty hard. We want it to have the same effect on Capitol Hill."

NCART hopes the video will breathe new life into efforts to repeal the 9.5% cut as part of healthcare reform legislation. The group urges providers to share the link for the video,, with their representatives and senators.

"The idea is for them to say, 'Here's what's happening in a small community in New York,' and then, 'This is what's happening in our community,'" Clayback said. "We feel that will go a long way toward painting an accurate and compelling picture of what's going on."

The video was produced by Quantum Rehab, the complex rehab division of Pride Mobility Products.

"It is our hope that this video helps educate legislators on the unique products, services and solutions individuals with mobility challenges require and the role complex rehab providers serve in meeting these needs," said Julie Piriano, Quantum's director of rehab industry affairs. hme