Policy grant signals ‘tide is shifting’

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Wednesday, September 30, 2020

PITTSBURGH – The University of Pittsburgh, among others, has received a $2.5 million grant over five years to investigate a new health coverage policy for complex rehab wheelchairs. 

The University of Pittsburgh Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC), UPMC Health Plan, The Ohio State University, University of Michigan and key disability, industry, and policy stakeholders, will be working together on the project. 
“We are not writing Medicare policy, rather investigating alternatives,” said Mark Schmeler, an associate professor and vice chairman of education and training in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at UPitt. “Whether Medicare or any insurance company chooses to implement anything we develop is really to be determined.” 
The grant, which is funded by the National Institute on Disability Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research, will be used to fund four projects. No 1: evaluate current policies and novel models, both within and outside the United States, with stakeholder input. For example, Australia has a flexible model in which the government gives the individual a certain amount of money, like an allowance, over a period of time, to spend however they see fit on health care. The Scandinavian countries also tend to have flexible systems. 
“Part of what we need to evaluate is, will that type of policy work in the United States, in our culture,” Schmeler said. “We’re a country that still does not have socialized universal health care, so we have to be cognizant of what policies would work in our culture versus others.” 
Additional steps are: No. 2, develop a standardized assessment and procurement protocol; No. 3, perform analyses of existing datasets relevant to CRT; and No. 4, evaluate the feasibility of a new model. 
Once all the findings are distilled into a policy proposal, Schmeler and his team plan to simulate the model on a cohort of CRT users and compare the outcomes to traditional coverage.   
“This is really a big step and I commend (the government) for funding this research,” said Schmeler. “The tide is shifting in health care coverage so now let’s look at what’s the best way to provide this and wipe the slate clean so that we can move forward with strategies for the future.”   

 

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