Rehab providers rework employee salaries

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reimbursement pressures have forced some wheelchair providers to rethink how they pay their rehab technology suppliers (RTSs) and assistive technology professionals (ATPs).

Provider Tim Pederson recently transitioned from paying his three ATPs straight salaries to salaries plus commission. If the ATPs want their sales to count toward their commission, however, they have to select products from the company's formulary.

"We get a better margin for the products on the formulary," said Pederson, CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D., and chairman of AAHomecare's Complex Rehab Mobility Council (CRMC). "This allows us to not only maximize sales but also to maximize more profitable sales. We have to do more with less."

Providers offer their RTSs and ATPs anything from straight salaries to salaries plus commission to salaries plus bonuses to 100% commission. Some providers say their salary structures are "top secret."

Provider Chris Henry recently transitioned from paying his four ATPs 100% commission to salaries plus annual bonuses based on their sales numbers.

"In addition to everything else, we've had reimbursement changes with our local Blue Cross Blue Shield," said Henry, CEO of The Medical Store in South Burlington, Vt. "They wanted more stability."

Provider John Letizia is in the middle of transitioning his two ATPs from straight salaries to salaries plus quarterly bonuses based not only on their sales numbers but also on the company's profitability.

"I'd like to reward my staff," said Letizia, president of Laurel Medical Supplies in Ebensburg, Pa. "And I'd like them to succeed, because if they succeed, I succeed."

But, when rethinking how they pay their RTSs and ATPs, providers shouldn't just have dollar signs in their eyes, says provider John Zona.

"We're trying to professionalize ourselves as an industry and we have all of these providers out there thinking that they have to pay people based on bottom-line dollars," said Zona, a seating specialist for the Fallon Clinic in Worcester, Mass., and president of NRRTS. "There are so many other things involved--customer satisfaction, positive outcomes."

That's true, providers like Pederson say, but at the end of the day, that means nothing without money in the coffers.

"Revenue is key and more profitable revenue is key," he said.

Henry agreed.

"This push to professionalize the industry--I'm behind it 100%," he said. "But we are for-profit companies. We can't ever allow ourselves to think that we're not."