Rehab industry joins fight against comp. bidding

Sunday, June 30, 2002

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - With competitive bidding gaining momentum nationally, various rehab organizations are joining the fight to keep the project from spreading.

The MED Group's National Rehab Network, spurred by the recent approval by the House Ways and Means Committee of a Republican-sponsored Medicare bill that includes competitive bidding, sent a mass e-mail to members urging them to write their elected officials.

AAHomecare's Re/hab and Assistive Technology Council (RATC) also sent a mass e-mail to members recently, making sure they all agree competitive bidding should be stopped. The response that the association got was: Not only is competitive bidding not right for the industry, it's not a good thing for rehab especially.

Providers say the expertise needed to fit a beneficiary for a wheelchair doesn't lend itself to competitive bidding. Nor does the service-intensive nature of the equipment (Service is often not recognized in bidding). Forced to submit low bids to win contracts, providers say they fear qualified technicians and services will fall by the wayside.

"Rehab is so specific and individualized," said Mary-Lacey Reuther, executive director of RATC. "There are the general concerns that competitive bidding denies beneficiaries choice and access, but with rehab, it could also result in getting hurt."

If competitive bidding were to be rolled out nationally, W.B. Mick, director of The MED Group's National Rehab Network, said the following wheelchairs should be exempt: manual wheelchairs (K0004, K0005, K0006, K0007 and K0009) and power wheelchairs (K0010, K0011, K0012, K0014). He said the following accessories should be exempt as well: K0108, E1399, E1220, E1230.

"Short of stopping rehab from being altogether excluded, those are the codes that should be forever excluded," he said.

The K0004 wheelchair is the only piece of rehab equipment currently being included in a competitive bidding project.

Kathleen Vale, CEO of the San Antonio-based Hope Medical Supply, won a contract for K0004 wheelchairs in the competitive bidding project there. She said fitting K0004 wheelchairs in a competitive bidding format hasn't been taxing on her company, but she can see how anything above a K0004 would cause problems.

"Beneficiaries are not going to get what they need, that's what's going to happen," Vale said. HME