Permobil files

Monday, March 31, 2003

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A bill proposing to protect Tennessee providers and consumers of wheeled mobility devices from unqualified dealers has been filed with the state legislature.

Drafted by Permobil and revised by a focus group comprised of providers, manufacturers, licensed therapists and consumer representatives, HB 0669 was filed with the state in late February. The group has worked on the language since September and is currently seeking support.

“Anyone can do an evaluation with a wink and a nod,” said Darren Jernigan, director of government affairs at Permobil. “So many people put in inappropriate claims. This (bill) will level the playing field.”

On March 19 the bill was scheduled to go before a public health subcommittee, made up of nine state representatives. It needs five votes to move forward to a Health Committee vote.

The legislation, named the “Consumer Protection Act for Wheeled Mobility,” proposes that providers be required to become members of NRRTS and/or RESNA. It also states that all prescribed wheeled mobility devices, modifications, and seating systems be reviewed by certified RTSs, ATSs or CRTSs administered by NRRTS and RESNA.

Also written in the legislation, DME providers must obtain a written evaluation and recommendation by an RTS, PT or OT for prescribed wheeled mobility devices and must meet the certification requirements of a CRTS, ATS, PT, or OT. It also reads the PT or OT may not be employed by the vendor.

The purpose of the bill, Jernigan said, is to separate “the gray area” between those who just sell scooters and standard wheelchairs and those who sell high-end rehab equipment. “We want to build a Chinese wall around rehab,” he said.

For years, Jernigan said, providers of high-end rehab equipment have been trying to certify dealers so that not just anyone could sell a wheelchair. With the way it is now, he said, clients are ending up getting “inappropriate” wheelchairs from unqualified dealers off the Internet or through television advertisements.

“No one gets undercut or undersold this way,” Jernigan said of the bill.

Jernigan said seven other states are interested in the bill and have contacted him regarding its status. Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina and New York have all expressed interest, he said.

Currently, Georgia is the only state that requires professionals who fit custom wheelchairs and seating systems be members of NRRTS.

The bill currently has support in the Senate and House of Representatives. If passed, it will become state law in April and go into effect in January 2004. HME