'An RT can't just be an RT' anymore'

Thursday, January 31, 2008

By Liz Beaulieu Managing Editor
MADISON, Wis. - A seminar hosted by the Wisconsin Association of Medical Equipment Services (WAMES) in November attracted 54 respiratory therapists. The seminar, held at a local Holiday Inn Express, included presentations by a local allergist and Joe Lewarski, vice president of Invacare's Respiratory Products Group.
Attendees also heard from a panel of peers who discussed how RTs can "remain viable" in a changing Medicare landscape.
"An RT can't just be an RT in the DME world anymore," said Dennis Iles, co-chair of the association's respiratory committee, and manager of respiratory and DME for Aurora VNA in Milwaukee. "They can't just do setups. With reimbursement cuts and everything else going on, they have to do marketing and sales and other things."
The seminar was the association's third. WAMES continues to refine it each year: The first focused on manufacturers and their product offerings; the second focused on sleep labs and CPAPs. This year's seminar also included a presentation on BadgerCare, the state's new program to provide health care for children.
The top concern among RTs at the seminar: Medicare's plan to cap reimbursement for home oxygen and transfer equipment ownership to patients beginning Jan. 1, 2009.
"Providers are still unsure," said Jean McAdams, co-chair of the respiratory committee and part owner of Community Home Medical in Baraboo. "If a patient's machine doesn't work and he owns it, how do we handle that? It's going to be hard to teach patients that they're going to be responsible for some of those costs."
Next year, WAMES hopes to lure therapists working in area hospitals to attend the seminar.