Rehab council off and running

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Georgia Rehab Technology Council met for the first time in January, but it didn’t waste time getting down to business.

Concerned about the state Medicaid program’s plan to reduce allowables and eliminate a miscellaneous code used for seating and special modifications (See story page 31), roughly 46 providers turned out for the Jan. 20 meeting.

During the meeting, providers quizzed a representative from the Georgia Department of Community Health. A few days later, Medicaid backed off plans to eliminate the code and make other changes.

Despite the break, it’s clear, members say, that the council will have to continue working to establish a relationship with Medicaid.

“We’ll put together a group from the council to go to meetings with Medicaid and represent our interests and make them understand why (rehab) is so different from your run-of-the-mill wheelchair,” said Chip Fiske, council chairman and a CRTS for Care Medical in Gainesville, Ga.

The council, which operates under the Georgia Association of Medical Equipment Services  umbrella, was formed to represent providers and help them educate the public, legislators and funding sources about rehab services. 

The council hopes to offer feedback on other Medicaid policies, including a requirement that independent ATPs conduct evaluations for complex power wheelchairs, said Weesie Walker, manager of National Seating & Mobility in Atlanta. While Medicare dropped that requirement, Georgia Medicaid did not.

“The funding for that service is not at a point where the therapists want to take it on as a practice,” she said.

Medicaid also requires that therapists sign off on the delivery of equipment. However, many seating clinics have difficulty obtaining prior approvals to see the patient again at the time of delivery, Walker said.

In addition to Medicaid issues, the rehab council offers an outlet for providers to share concerns about Medicare issues such as the 9.5% nationwide reimbursement cut. The council’s recent meeting, for example, included a panel discussion with manufacturer representatives, therapists and providers, entitled “Seating and Mobility on a Budget.”

“With any type of reimbursement cut, we need to talk with the powers that be to make sure they understand if you slash an allowable in half, the only loser is the end user,” said Fiske.