Texas rehab providers strike out alone

Monday, May 31, 2004

HOUSTON, Texas - A rash of new associations and coalitions - including RAMP and NCART - have popped onto the national DME stage. Now, a new association in Texas has joined the act, but with a focus on state rehab issues and education.

The Greater Texas Rehab Providers’ Council (TXRPC) launched in April as a way for the state’s high-end rehab providers to address the issues and challenges the industry faces there. The organization evolved out of a Medical Equipment Suppliers Association (MESA) work group that fought across-the-board reimbursement cuts to the Medicaid fee schedule after some leaders decided a rehab-specific voice was needed in the state.

“For too long high-end rehab has been subordinated under the HME/DME umbrella,” said Ron Kieschnik, TXRPC’s president. “As such, it is virtually impossible to differentiate the unique aspects of rehab’s delivery model, specifically the importance of professional expertise.”

Further hampering rehab’s position in the state was the “misunderstanding and mistrust” of the industry that came to light after last fall’s Wheeler Dealer scandal, which centered in Houston, said Kieschnik. The group felt a coalition of providers, manufacturers and consumers could best work to communicate and educate the public, state administration and insurance carriers on the benefits of rehab.

The organization’s first goal is to educate administrators within the state’s recently reorganized Health and Human Services Commission and within the new Medicaid claims processing agent, said Tom Hafford, CEO of Texas DME and a member of the TXRPC board of directors.

“While it may be simple to educate them on DME issues, it is very difficult to educate folks on rehab,” he said.

Like the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology’s break from AAHomecare in February, TXPRC launched as a separate entity from its state association.

“A lot of [NCART’s] motivation was the same as ours,” said Hafford.

Both groups were created to carve out a voice for high-end rehab, and both carry a stigma of fracturing the industry’s voice in national and local issues.

“We are still MESA members but as individuals, from a lobbying and education standpoint, we needed to be the voice for rehab in Texas to the Texas funding sources,” said Hafford. “We are not trying to fragment our voice. What we want to do is focus rather than fragment.”