NEMED urges rehab members to join NCART

Monday, October 31, 2005

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - With the clock ticking on national competitive bidding, the New England Medical Equipment Dealers Association made a formal plea to its rehab members at its recent quarterly meeting: join national associations.
"Gone are the days of sending in dues to your state association and thinking that everything is done and taken care of," said Karyn Estrella, executive director of NEMED.
But the state association took its plea a step further by "highly recommending" that rehab members join the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART).
Some rehab members want to put all their eggs in one basket, because they worry there's a "disjointed voice" in Washington, said Jim Greatorex, a NEMED member who does a good amount of rehab business.
Multiple voices haven't been much of a problem in the past, but "this is the last year to affect the outcome of [national competitive bidding]," said Greatorex, co-owner of Black Bear Medical. "If we don't do something this year, it's going to be carnage."
NCART, and its focus on custom rehab, is better positioned to protect rehab providers from NCB, some of the association's rehab members believe. Case in point: NCART is leading the charge for a rehab carve out, they say.
Those members said AAHomecare's Rehab and Assistive Technology Council (RATC), with its wider membership, isn't as focused on custom rehab, although co-chairman Tim Pedersen, owner of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D., said he's proof that different segments of rehab are well represented. The council's other co-chair is Seth Johnson, director of government affairs for Pride Mobility.
"There's a big difference in structure between RATC and NCART," Pedersen said. "But that doesn't mean that we can't agree. We do, by and large, agree on 99.9% of issues."
As long as there is one message, which is increasingly becoming the case, multiple voices can only help the rehab provider's cause, said Don Clayback, who sits on NCART's board of directors.
"Sometimes, having the same message come from a couple of different directions" makes all the difference, said Clayback, director of the MED Group's National Rehab Network.
The recent congressional fly-in on mobility issues organized by NCART and RATC and another rehab group, the Restore Access to Mobility Partnership (RAMP), is a good example of that, industry sources said (See story on page 1).
"We're encouraged by that joint effort," Estrella said. "If that continues, we'll all win."