Region C’s Metzger joins Scooter Store

Sunday, November 30, 2003

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - Region C Medical Director Dr. Paul Metzger has accepted a job as vice president of government relations at the Scooter Store, which emerged as the nation’s largest supplier of power wheelchairs during his time at the DMERC. Metzger joined the Scooter Store Nov. 10 and also will serve as the company’s chief medical officer.

Metzger resigned as medical director Oct. 31, just weeks after the eruption of the power wheelchair scandal in Harris County, Texas and just days after the FBI visited the homes of about two dozen Scooter Store sales people.

“We were surprised but not shocked” by Saturday’s FBI action, said the Scooter Store’s Executive Vice President of Marketing, Margaret McGuckin. CMS Administrator Tom Scully was very clear in his 10-point plan to curb fraud and abuse that the industry was under scrutiny, she added.

As the nation’s largest wheelchair supplier, she said, the government was likely to focus in their direction.

Metzger in late October informed CMS of his appointment at the Scooter Store, which is based in Region C and has recused himself from any action involving the company, said McGuckin.

CMS and Palmetto GBA called Metzger’s resignation strictly coincidental. A colleague, Region D Medical Director Dr. Robert Hoover, agreed.

“From everything I have seen and I have heard, the situation in Houston did not impact Dr. Metzger’s leaving Region C,” said Hoover. “I can tell you that with certainty.”

Metzger will not work for the Scooter Store full time, but on a contractor basis.

His appointment is a capstone in the Scooter’s Store’s efforts to remake its political face. The power mobility supplier recently hired former NSC Director Tom Hood as its vice president of government relations-regulatory affairs (see October issue of HME News). In a press release, the Scooter Store applauded CMS’s aggressive response to fraud and abuse in Harris County.

The efforts seem to be paying off. In a recent interview, CMS chief Scully said, “I would say the Scooter Store, for instance, is a fairly structured, reasonable provider.”

At the Scooter Store, Hood will handle the company’s regulatory affairs, as well as its relationship with CMS and the DMERCs. As chief medical director, Metzger will oversee relationships with physicians and the company’s Medicare compliance group.

“One of the reasons we wanted to have him assist us is because of his years of experience, his ethics and the value that he could bring to our organization from a physician perspective,” said Tim Zipp, the company’s executive vice president of government realtions.

Zipp said the Scooter Store had developed the position Metzger will fill before he announced his departure from Palmetto GBA but did not contact Metzger about it until after that announcement.

Hoover believes that Metzger’s appointment will be good for the Scooter Store, a company that offers a wide target for the ill will of smaller wheelchair suppliers who question the company’s vigorous marketing efforts.

“From my perspective, Paul (Metzger) is a man of integrity and has a rational approach to Medicare,” said Hoover. “He will be able to help the Scooter Store.”