Monday, September 21, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas isn’t the first state to require that rehab providers be certified to provide custom seating and mobility to Medicaid beneficiaries, but it’s the first to pay them extra for it.

Over the summer, lawmakers passed a bill that requires rehab providers to be RESNA-certified assistive technology professionals (ATPs) to provide custom seating and mobility. It also requires Medicaid officials to develop “an appropriate reimbursement methodology for compensating the evaluation and final fitting services” provided by ATPs.

“This is the first state to say the ATP has a dollar value,’” said Tom Hafford, secretary/treasurer and director of the Greater Texas Rehab Providers Council (TXRPC). “That’s major.”

The bill went into effect in September. Medicaid officials have until Jan. 1, 2011, to implement it.

The requirement will “change the scene a little bit,” acknowledges Michael Bird, president and executive director of the TXRPC. (Medicare has had a similar requirement in place for more than a year, but most rehab providers in Texas focus on Medicaid, he says.)

“Whenever there’s change, there’s always someone who complains,” said Bird, president of Marshall Mobility Plus in McAllen, Texas. “For the most part, this is positive, especially for consumers.”

Because the Medicare requirement has made ATPs hard to find in many areas, rehab providers in Texas who don’t have ATPs already may want to look to their existing staffs, Bird said.

“We need to identify people who are capable and develop them,” he said. “That’s something we should be doing, anyway.”

Hafford, president of Texas DME/Mobility Dynamics in Cleburne, Texas, is an ATP and he has one employee preparing to sit for the ATP exam. Bird is an ATP and he has one employee who’s also an ATP.

The TXRPC has been trying to pass a bill like this for six years (Texas holds legislative sessions every other year).

“This is the first time we were able to satisfy all parties involved,” Hafford said.

A number of states, including Tennessee, California, Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts and Oklahoma, have similar laws or Medicaid policies in place.