After Quickie woes, Sunrise promises a brand new day

Sunday, March 31, 2002

LONGMONT, Colo. - Sunrise Medical is banking on the fact that the old adage about being stronger in the broken place can also apply to businesses. In the wake of reliability problems with Quickie's power chairs, Sunrise is now pledging to stand behind its power products with a suite of new vows the company is touting as its Chairman's Promise.

The promotion makes three promises: One, to lower the risk of shipping damage, all Quickie power chairs will be shipped on pallets. Two, every Quickie power chair comes with a 90-day moneyback guarantee. And three, Sunrise will guarantee reimbursement on selected Quickie chairs if and when its consulting service signs off on the paperwork.

The Chairman's Promise is the most ambitious message to emerge from the company's relatively new executive team, many of whom hail from the automotive industry. The message they're trying to convey with the Promise tells of a resurgent company. To do that, according to Sunrise Medical President John Kitts, the company has to put its money where its mouth is.

"It's one thing to call on a bunch of customers and say our quality has improved, we think our processes are better, we think we're friendlier and easier to do business with," he said. "It's completely different when you say we'll back it up."

The loudest part of the message, as it were, is the reimbursement guarantee. Guarantees are neither new or unique to Sunrise Medical. Rehab providers have been running paperwork past Sunrise Consulting screeners for years at a monthly fee of $100-$250. Pride Mobility offers a screening service. Invacare debuted its CARE (Claims Assistance Reimbursement Expertise) Support Line at Medtrade last fall.

Under the Chairman's Promise however, rehab providers who sign up for the service can take advantage of the screening service without a monthly commitment, on a piecemeal basis at $30 per submission.

The guarantee kicks in only after the appeals process has been exhausted. The Promise absolves Sunrise of responsibility if a rejection stems from a list of claims denials outlined in the initial contract. But one rehab provider, who's been using Sunrise Consulting for years and for more than 100 chairs, says screening is more or less foolproof.

"In 95% of the cases they've reviewed for us, we've been paid," said Doug Crana, president of Consolidated Medical in Newburgh, N.Y. "I think you have to be crazy not to have it. You're taking a risk putting out an expensive service and rolling the dice to see if you get paid."

High-end chairs are among the most frequently denied Medicare claims. About two of every three claims for K0012 and K0014 chairs are denied by Medicare, according to data aggregated by RemitData.

Crana applauds Sunrise Medical's Promise, but, like other rehab providers, he said Sunrise has more work to do as the company's rivals launch aggressive marketing and sales efforts.

"I can see why Quickie is trying to do something," said Crana. "I can see it clear as day. But I also think they need to get back to basics and get sales people on the street."

Sunrise has heard the same message, according to Kitts, and promises additional promises. "We're taking steps to increase call frequency, and to ensure higher levels of service from a face-to-face standpoint with our customer," he said. HME