Monday, May 31, 2004

Targeting power wheelchairs
With Tim Zipp

Q. Why will the power wheelchair industry and many in DME struggle with legislative and regulatory changes over the year?

A. The Bush Administration passed the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003 six months ago and allowed seniors across America to gain financial relief when purchasing necessary prescription drugs. In doing so, we will see the deficit grow to historic levels. Now, with the elections a mere six months away, Republican leadership will naturally continue to worry about living with deficits like we saw in the 70s, 80s and 90s, and the administration will work to reverse this trend. All indications show that the president’s plan is to cut the current deficit in half over the next several years, and as is the case with any business, the government will be looking for places to cut costs significantly over the next few years.

Here’s why power mobility will be high on the list for change:

- Fraud - With Houston, Dallas and other parts of the country, DME will keep its undeserved reputation as having high levels of inappropriate payments.

- High Growth - This is seen as unsustainable (including fraud numbers); however if you remove just the Houston activity, we see the apparent growth rate is cut in half.

- Perception that Medicare overpays for power wheelchairs - We make too much money. There is no concept of what it costs to do business as a medicare supplier versus an internet drop-shipper.

In the context of the deficit, the administration will be pushed to drop costs and for these reasons, power mobility will be high on the list for scrutiny.

To help shape the new landscape, there must be involvement from suppliers, manufacturers, advocacy groups, and above all beneficiaries and the physician community.

Get to know your Congressperson now. Pick up the phone or write a letter introducing yourself today. They must know about the local businesses taking care of their Medicare covered constituents. You must educate them or the only information they will have to make decisions will be from CMS, the OIG and the GAO.

Identify your customers who can explain the life changing value of the products you supply, so they defend their benefits and take their stories to Congress.

Tim Zipp is executive v.p. for government affairs at The Scooter Store. For comment, e-mail him at tzipp@thescooterstore.com.