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On the Editor's Desk

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, December 17, 2009

As we reported in our HME NewsWire on Monday, the "clawback" alternative for standard power wheelchairs crafted by the industry and proposed by Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., has been killed by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

But not all hope is lost, according to AAHomecare, which just sent out this bulletin to members:

In an effort to preserve the first-month purchase option, an alternative was discussed on the last joint CRMC-State Leaders’ call which would propose an across-the-board rate cut or CPI freeze for standard power Group 1 and Group 2 chairs.  Senate allies have informed AAHomecare that this cut cannot be phased-in over a 10-year period but would require a 3- to 5-year phase-in period instead.  The CRMC council and AAHomecare guest members on the call agreed to request that the cut apply to Group 1 and 2 base chairs only and not to options and accessories.  The group agreed that if more than 3.5% cuts are required to reach budget-neutrality, then the CRMC will reconvene to discuss.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

December is a time to take stock. With that in mind, I used Google Analytics to find out the most viewed rehab story on our Web site for 2009:

Rehab: Separate but not equal?, published in the March 3 HME NewsWire and viewed 2,111 times.

I'm not surprised. NCART's efforts to create a separate benefit for complex rehab has been a steady source of stories and blogs for me this year. It's interesting to note that when I wrote this story earlier this year, stakeholders made a point to tell me it was a long-term project. It is, but there's been quite a bit of progress since then. In my most recent story published in last week's NewsWire, Don Clayback states that he and other members of a steering committee hope to have a plan that details changes to coding, coverage criteria, payment methodology and provider qualifications completed next month. From there, they'll develop a legislative and regulatory strategy.

So what was the second most viewed story? "Wheelchair repairs: CMS addresses service fees," published in the April 13 NewsWire and viewed 1,997 times.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The ROHO Group, a manufacturer of wheelchair seat cushions, was the driver behind an article in the Belleville News-Democrat today about how healthcare reform would negatively impact local businesses. The manufacturer tells the newspaper that its 250 employees could be affected by certain provisions in the bill, including one that calls for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to implement a competitive bidding program for manufacturers of medical devices and supplies. Because of the customized nature of its seat cushions, ROHO feels it would suffer in a competitive bidding program where standardization (and the cheaper products they produce) is king. The article contained the following stats, which were interesting:

  • Dave McCausland, senior vice president of planning and government affairs, estimated that total U.S. expenditures for wheelchair seating each year is roughly $100 million to $120 million. Globally, it is about $300 million.
  • Total Medicare expenditures last year for durable medical equipment prosthetics, orthotics and supplies manufacturers was approximately $12 billion. Less than $20 million of that went for adjustable, skin protection seating, which primarily are the products The ROHO Group manufactures.

Be sure to read the comments at the bottom (always entertaining, if not interesting)!

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, December 14, 2009

rhb-nsm-van1Nashville, Tenn.-based National Seating & Mobility (NSM) has taken its show on the road. Earlier this month, President and CEO Mike Ballard left the company’s corporate offices in a “Mobility RV” outfitted with wheelchairs and other equipment and headed west toward California. His plan: To stop at NSM branches to deliver education to therapists and physicians; perform wheelchair clinics; and, in general, raise awareness of the rehab industry. “We think this is an excellent method of getting the word out to all of our constituents,” stated Ballard in a release.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, December 10, 2009

This is an interesting exercise:

Jackie Jackson, a New Jersey social worker with multiple sclerosis, has launched a statewide initiative to educate municipal officials about making facilities more friendly to people with disabilities, according to a Dec. 8 article in As part of her "accessibility tour," Jackson encourages officials to "roll with me" through various facilities, including city halls and libraries.

After taking the tour recently, Plainfield Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs told a reporter for

"I do see some areas that we need to improve. I saw a lot of obstacles today I didn't see before."

Keep up the good work, Jackie!

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1800wheelchair_built_by_wendy_2l1So I never thought much about how traditional jackets wouldn't work so well for wheelchairs users until Darren Ortsman at 1800wheelchair told me about the Built by Wendy wheelchair poncho. The limited edition poncho, available exclusively at 1800wheelchair, features a longer front for better leg coverage and a shorter back for better seated comfort. But it's about more than functionality. It's probably more stylish than any other wheelchair poncho you've ever seen. It was designed by Wendy Mullin, a New York City designer that's a favorite of artists and celebrities like Sofia Coppola and James Franco. It's available in khaki or navy cotton linen and features a plaid liner.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, December 7, 2009

rhb-choppers5If you’ve ever watched the reality TV show American Chopper, you know that Paul Sr., the founder of Orange County Choppers and patriarch of the Teutul family, is a big guy. His sleeveless shirts and tattooed arms make sure you notice.

But provider Doug Crana, president of Consolidated Medical, which, like Orange County Chopper, has its home base in Newburgh, N.Y., says Paul Sr.’s even bigger in person.

“He looks bigger than he does on TV,” he said. “It was pretty neat.”

Crana met Paul Sr. recently, when he and his employees fitted him for a TiLite manual wheelchair (Consolidated Medical is a TiLite dealer). Paul Sr. doesn’t need a wheelchair, but during an episode that is scheduled to air Jan. 7, he will ride away in a wheelchair-accessible motorcycle that his shop has designed and built.

After the episode, Orange County Choppers will donate the motorcycle to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

“Everything was a donation—from TiLite donating the wheelchair to us donating our time to do the fitting,” Crana said. “It took us maybe two or three hours, so I don’t think we’ll be a big part of the episode, but it’s nice to get the recognition.”

The motorcycle, Crana explained, has three wheels, making room for a wheelchair ramp in the back. The ramp features an EZ Lock docking system to secure the wheelchair in place.

“It’s very, very different,” he said. “Like nothing I’ve seen before.”

American Choppers airs on TLC. Click here for viewing information.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, December 4, 2009

Noridian Administrative Services, the DME MAC for Jurisdiction D, published a revised article this week on the difference between an assistive technology professional (ATP) that works as a clinician and an ATP that works as a supplier. CMS will now refer to an ATP that works as a supplier as a sATP (I know - another acronym!). To learn more, including whether an sATP can perform any part of the face-to-face exam required for power mobility devices, click here.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, December 3, 2009

In the heyday of home medical equipment, providers rarely worried about the profitability of their service departments. Not anymore, especially when it comes to power wheelchairs, says Dick Fuller.

Fuller, who has 27 years of industry experience, mostly with power wheelchairs, started a consulting company recently to help providers restructure their service departments to make it easier to determine their profitability.

I don’t mean to imply that the way we used to run service departments was wrong,” he said. “It’s just that the business model has shifted. We used to make a pretty decent margin (selling equipment) and off of that margin, we made sure the customer was well cared for. We’re dancing to a different tune now.”

The power wheelchair market has been hit by reimbursement cuts totaling about 37% since 2006. As a result, providers are now worried about a lot, including their service departments.

See the January issue for the rest of the story.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I had never heard the term "power soccer" until I met Kevin Williams, a 31-year-old wheelchair user, earlier this year. Basically, it's a sport played with an over-sized soccer ball by wheelchair users with guards on their feet. Williams LOVES power soccer. Well, CNN says the sport is "catching on." It produced this story on power soccer last week (see below). Check it out to learn the story of a power soccer player who left France to promote the sport here in the United States and another player who will graduate from college next spring with a degree in business management. During the interviews, notice the Invacare logo on the banner in the background.

Liz Beaulieu