Scooter Store: So misunderstood

Friday, February 29, 2008

I've never seen an industry news event inflame more raw emotion than Invacare's decision to stop doing business with the Scooter Store. Talk about stirring up a hornet's nest. If you are Invacare, this story pushed all the right buttons. Providers everywhere came out of the woodwork to praise the industry's largest manufacturer for taking a stand against the Scooter Store, which in December circulated a letter on Capitol Hill that seemed to lobby against carving out complex rehab from national competitive bidding. The Scooter Store also advocated in the letter for one big national bid, not multiple bids in different metropolitan statistical areas. Both suggestions smacked of obvious self interest and would play nicely into the hands of a large national provider like the Scooter Store.
The Scooter Store's letter, dated Dec. 14, 2007, came to light in mid-January and created a major PR backlash for the company. When it comes to competitive bidding, the Scooter Store's for everything the industry is against, Invacare exclaimed. If you read the letter, that does seem to be the case. The VGM Group's U.S. Rehab read it that way and urged AAHomecare to consider booting the Scooter Store off the association's rehab council.
Amidst the industry uproar and buzz, you could almost hear Scooter Store officials utter: Oops.
It's pretty clear CEO Doug Harrison and the other top brass underestimated the uproar their letter would create. Or maybe they thought it would never be leaked. After all, the Scooter Store circulated the letter to only a "handful of congressional offices."
Within days after the letter came to light, the Scooter Store clarified and softened its position. We didn't mean what we said, they said. We wrote it fast without thinking. We believe all power mobility should be carved out of NCB, not just complex rehab. We would never lobby against the passage of industry legislation. We...
Ok, guys, we get the point.
Personally, I don't care where a provider stands on competitive bidding. I think it's a terrible idea (do we need another government bureaucracy?), but we live in a country where people cherish freedom of speech. If the Scooter Store desires to see competitive bidding structured in a way that best suits its business goals, that's fine. I would think it strange for them--or any provider, big or small--to say otherwise.
You cannot, however, say one thing and do another. That's what bothers most people about the Scooter Store's recent behavior. After dropping a bomb on industry advocacy efforts in December, the Scooter Store's follow-up letters attempting to clarify its position rang hollow. I don't know how the Scooter Store fixes this--how it regains what trust it had with independent providers--but I think writing more letters should be out of the question.