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Mike Barner on wins, fresh ideas and CRT’s unicorn

Mike Barner on wins, fresh ideas and CRT’s unicorn

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Mike Barner says if Simon Margolis were still around, he’d be pleased with the complex rehab industry’s continued development but “challenged” that there’s still no separate benefit. 

“That’s such a big haul and we’ve had some major interruptions related to the fall out of competitive bidding that we’ve had to address immediately,” said Barner, who was named a Simon Margolis Fellow during NRRTS’s virtual Annual Open Meeting in October for his contributions to the organization since 1996. “But other than that, I think he’d be really pleased with the work that has been done.” 

Barner, a past president of NRRTS and the administrative director of the University of Michigan Wheelchair Seating Service, highlighted some of his wins and the still elusive separate benefit in an interview with HME News in November. 

Wins – big and small 

Barner believes the industry has made great strides with getting state Medicaid programs to recognize complex rehab as a separate benefit, including in his home state of Michigan. The Michigan State Senate has passed a bill this year and now stakeholders are working on the House of Representatives. Looking back, Barner also notes that he and other stakeholders in the state were also able to convince Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to require CRTSs or ATPs, in combination with RRTS, for complex rehab, and initiated the formation of a complex rehab section under the Michigan HomeCare & Hospice Association. 

“We’ve done so much work locally,” he said. 

Barner has also left his mark on NRRTS when he was president by initiating the organization’s move to online renewal for registration. 

“Nowadays that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but when you don’t have it and you’re slinging paper back and forth, it drives you crazy,” he said. 

Fresh ideas 

Barner, as a past president on NRRT’s Advisory Board, still consults the organization’s board from time to time, and the most exciting thing for him recently has been seeing more widespread participation. 

“We’re seeing the younger folks get more involved,” he said.  “To get those fresh ideas has been great.” 

CRT’s unicorn 

The industry has succeeded in getting a number of bills introduced to create a separate benefit for complex rehab, but for the past few years, it has been consumed with putting out more immediate fires related to Medicare’s competitive bidding program. The industry aims to put out the last fire before July, when an 18-month delay in CMS applying bid pricing for accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs expires. 

“The separate benefit is the kind of thing that you’re like to see happen before your retirement,” Barner said. 


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