Providers, consumers stand united

Sunday, November 30, 2008

WASHINGTON--Industry stakeholders and representatives from a handful of consumer groups met in October to discuss how to preserve patient access to complex rehab equipment and services.

In its first meeting, the group agreed on the need for a study on how consumers actually use complex rehab equipment. For example, how do consumers use power seat elevators, which CMS doesn’t pay for, and how does having that equipment affect their daily lives?

“The goal here is simple: To collect data that supports what technology does for people-we hope that would prove that you don’t really want to cut back pricing and fee schedules,” said Mark Sullivan, Invacare’s vice president of rehab products.

Invacare and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association co-hosted the meeting. Attendees included Permobil, The ROHO Group, AAHomecare, the United Spinal Association, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, United Cerebral Palsy, the National Coalition on Disability Rights, and the Paralyzed Veterans Association.

Historically, the industry and consumer groups have had difficulty seeing eye to eye. The industry has struggled to convince consumers, as well as lawmakers, that its business issues lead to access issues.

“Consumer groups now are seeing they do have to be concerned,” said Don Clayback, vice-president of government relations for The Med Group. “For example, instead of providers being able to come out to your house and do repairs, consumers may have to bring their chairs into the company’s location to have it repaired.”

Leaders of consumer groups say that while some patients may not pay attention to reimbursement cuts, most understand how the system works-or rather, doesn’t work.

“Somebody who’s maybe been paralyzed for 20 years-they have a very good sense of what they need,” said Eric Larson, executive director and CEO of the National Spinal Cord Injury Association. “Unfortunately, they often have to jump through a lot of hoops to make the system work for them.”
This latest meeting, however, left Larson feeling more optimistic about the future.

“What we have is a shared agreement that however we move forward, it needs to be not only from the perspective of consumers, but also from the perspective of manufacturers and providers,” he said. “Any real change to the system has to reflect input from all of those perspectives.”