Separate benefit for complex rehab: 'Do something' at CELA

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WASHINGTON - After two years of laying the groundwork for a separate benefit for complex rehab, stakeholders who plan to attend CELA in Washington, D.C. in February are prepared to call for action.

Prior to the conference, they hope to have one of two things: Ideally, a bill introduced in Congress that would create the benefit; or, at the very least, "solid legislative language" to share with lawmakers and to get their support, says Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS, which co-hosts CELA with NCART.

"We can't go to the Hill for a third year without having a concrete proposal," he said. "In 2009 and 2010, we raised awareness; OK, now we have to do something."

Registration for CELA, which takes place Feb. 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel-Crystal City, opened last week. During the conference, stakeholders, providers and consumers will conduct visits with lawmakers on the 17th and attend sessions on the 18th.

With the benefit closer to becoming a reality, there's renewed interest in CELA, stakeholders say. This year, there are more overall sponsors (20), more high-level sponsors (seven platinum) and more new sponsors (including Rifton, a manufacturer of adaptive equipment like gait trainers).

"Now that legislation is becoming part of the conversation, there's a lot more excitement," said John Zona, president of NRRTS and a seating specialist for the Fallon Clinic in Worcester, Mass.

To make the most of its visits with lawmakers on Feb. 17th, NRRTS will stage a national call-in on Feb. 16. In 2008, when CELA attendees sought to get complex rehab carved out of competitive bidding, stakeholders, providers and consumers staged a similar event that resulted in more than 1,000 calls.

"The idea is to build momentum going into the visits," Margolis said. "If we do it right, there should be recognition from dozens of offices about our initiative because people have called in."

While CELA isn't necessarily the last chance for the industry to drum up support for a separate benefit, it's an opportunity it wants to make the most of, stakeholders say.

"I wouldn't call it do or die time, but yes, we're on a timetable," said Tim Pederson, chairman of AAHomecare's Complex Rehab and Mobility Council and CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D. "But more important than a timetable is getting it done correctly and sustainably."