One down, more to go

Thursday, July 31, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The ink is barely dry on a law in Tennessee that requires quality standards for rehab providers, but Permobil is already introducing its law to providers in seven other states.

Sales representatives for Permobil were scheduled to meet with providers in Virginia last month and Missouri this month, according to Darren Jernigan, director of government affairs. In the coming months, they’re also scheduled to meet with providers in Minnesota, California, Maryland, Texas and Florida.

“I think we’re looking to set a precedent,” Jernigan said. “Once we get 12 to15 states to pass the law, we’ll get to Congress.”

Starting next year, providers in Tennessee will have to employ at least one person who meets the requirements for membership in NRRTS, though that person doesn’t have to be a member of the organization. In 2007, providers will have to employ at least one person who holds RESNA’s ATS or ATP credential, or who is a PT or an OT.

The reps plan to present the Tennessee law to providers and encourage them, in turn, to present it to a legislator in their state who they think will sponsor it, Jernigan said. Because Permobil had to make several concessions to ensure that its law was passed, the reps will present the initial draft of the law, he said.

“We’ll start with the dream list and see where they can go with it,” Jernigan said.

In Tennessee, Permobil experienced opposition from PTs and the state’s homecare association, Jernigan said. PTs felt they were already qualified to fit custom wheelchairs, and they didn’t want the burden of meeting more requirements; the association feared how the law would affect providers who fit only a few wheelchairs a year.

It doesn’t appear the reps will have difficulty recruiting states. The National Rehab Network and U.S. Rehab, which have pulses on hundreds of providers across the country, say they and their members support Permobil’s efforts.

Jim Fiss, president and co-owner of Rehab Medical in St. Louis, said he has been waiting for this to happen since the inception of NRRTS.

“That was the beginning of getting to a point where rehab technology suppliers were recognized for what they do,” he said. “This is the next step.”

It took a push from a corporate company to get there, Fiss said.

Tom Hafford, owner of Mobility Dynamics in Cleburne, Texas, said he supports the law as well.

“I’ve been in contact with more than 100 providers over the past few months due to the budget crisis in Texas, and not one would oppose the law,” he said. “A significant percentage of custom wheelchairs are already being dispensed by qualified people. Over half, I’d guess.” HME