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On the Editor's Desk

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, October 30, 2009

So I spoke with Simon Margolis this morning about yesterday's consensus conference on creating a separate benefit for complex rehab (if you haven't already read my story on the conference, click here). Margolis, executive director of NRRTS, believes it was a momentous occasion. Here's why:

Difficult times make very strange bedfellows. This is the first time—I mean you have to really think about what’s happening here—you have AAHomecare, NCART, NRRTS, RESNA and the Clinician Task Force all sitting at the same table, all working toward the same goal in an effective, collegial manner. There’s some partisanship, but that’s natural, and it's not a partisanship that’s affecting the outcome of the work that we’re doing. It was just phenomenal. I looked out at the audience and there was Cara Bachenheimer, Seth Johnson, Wayne Grau, Julie Piriano—a whole group of people who aren’t always on the same page and who serve very different markets. We had people from Alliance Seating & Mobility, who definitely aren’t mainstream rehab yet, but they’re working at it, and I give them credit for being involved in things. They weren’t there to snipe; they were there to participate. Whatever the outcome of the conference, the process is pulling the industry together and not tearing it apart.

Maybe times aren't difficult enough for oxygen providers to become strange bedfellows (click here if you don't know what I'm talking about)?

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, October 29, 2009

Today, you'll remember, is the consensus conference to discuss a separate benefit for complex rehab. I'll be making calls for a story on the conference this afternoon and tomorrow morning, so check our HME NewsWire on Monday for an update.

In the meantime, here are a few recent blogs and stories on the initiative:

Separate benefit: I'm for it, and I'm not

Medtrade notes: Separate benefit for complex rehab

Don't repeat the past

NCART on separate benefit: It's not simple, and it won't be quick

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A company called Vovici announced today that it has been selected by The Scooter Store to "manage employee feedback efforts" (in layman's terms: Vovici's Web-based software will be used by The Scooter Store to create and administer its surveys).

What's interesting: A Scooter Store official states in the release that, before using Vovici, the company had to "manually generate each of 225 reports separately." Two hundred and twenty five reports? Each year? According to the release, The Scooter Store's surveys include:

  • annual employee satisfaction, and learning and development surveys;
  • human resources surveys;
  • pre- and post-training evaluations; and
  • performance improvement surveys.

How much do you care what your employees think and how well they perform? Apparently, if you're the size of The Scooter Store and 40% employee owned, a lot.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This feel-good story from the BBC News caught my attention today:

A disabled man who set up a company making wheelchairs because he was frustrated with the lack of choice available to users has won an award.

Mark Owen and his brother, Jon, have picked up a "Design Management Europe Award" for their MRK1 wheelchair. They started their company, Nomad, just six months ago.

According to the company's Web site, the MRK1 features include a chassis made from aircraft grade aluminum (T6 6082), which is strong but lightweight, and an adjustable axle position.

The story goes on:

Mark Owen started using a wheelchair after a road accident in 1996 left him paralysed from the chest down, and with the use of only his right arm.

Jon Owen said the award was "proof that it is possible to make the best of any situation, no matter how bad it seems at first".

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, October 26, 2009

dervorstInvacare's team of sports wheelchair athletes continue to make headlines. The manufacturer announced today that Monique van der Vorst of Team Invacare won the Ford Ironman World Championship for her division on Oct. 10. She completed a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile handcycle race and a 26.2-mile marathon in 11:10:14, breaking an 11-year-old record by more than two hours. van der Vorst used an Invacare Top End Force K Handcycle for the handcycle race and an Invacare Top End Eliminator OSR Racing Chair for the marathon. "The Force K Handcycle is a completely custom built kneeling-position handcycle—so custom that engineering drawings were needed to manufacture it," Invacare stated in a release. "It is super stiff for maximum transfer of power." This was van der Vorst's first Ironman.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, October 23, 2009

The worldwide wheelchair market will grow from $3.9 billion in 2009 to $7.9 billion in 2015, according to a new report from Research and Markets. The 484-page report describes the market as “poised for significant growth” due to an aging population and improved technology. The report acknowledges that “reimbursement has been a significant market factor,” but it states: “As baby boomers age and need wheelchairs, they will be willing to pay directly for mobility and comfort as they do for homes and cars now. This trend will assure market growth worldwide.”

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, October 22, 2009

Invacare reported earnings for the third quarter this week, and the news was  good. Adjusted net earnings were $16.7 million for the quarter ended Sept. 30, 2009, compared to $13.4 million for the same period last year. Invacare also boasted of a 1.9 percentage point improvement in its growth margin and about $45 million of free cash flow.

For its North America/HME division, however, Invacare blamed rehab, in part, for a 3.2% decrease in net sales ($185.1 million vs. $191.2 million). The company stated:

Rehab product line net sales decreased by 1.8% compared to the third quarter last year, driven primarily by declines in sales of the Top End sports wheelchair, custom manual and consumer power product lines. Primarily drive by cash sales, Top End has been negatively impacted by the economic downturn.

The drop in sales was also driven by recent coverage rule changes:

Reliant on reimbursement, sales of custom manual wheelchairs have been negatively impacted by coverage rules, such as the state of Ohio's recent change related to ceasing reimbursement at nursing homes for HME products.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I was sifting through business cards today that we collected at Medtrade last week. I came across a card for Easy Life, Inc. I entered the company's Web site address into Firefox and, after a fancy flash video about lead generation, lead qualification and other "creative solutions," I was redirected here.

If you don't want to click on the link, the final Web site address is http://www.powerchairatnocost.com/.

Power chair at no cost.

Certainly, Easy Life isn't the first (or probably the last) to make this claim. But I thought luring senior citizens into calling a toll-free number with this kind of promise...

Once we've pre-qualified you, the chair is yours free. If for any reason Medicare denies, you keep the chair absolutely free. That's our 100% Mobility Guarantee!

...was frowned upon these days.

After CMS saw power wheelchair utilization spike several years ago, it started raising its eyebrow at claims like these. As a result, other providers began using "at little or no cost" verbiage on their Web sites. One even has this disclaimer:

Insurance coverage depends on medical necessity as determined by insurer. Valid doctor's prescription required.

I think Easy Life should think again about that domain name.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I had an interesting conversation today with a provider who relies on complex rehab for 80% of his business. Here's what he said about the industry's efforts to create a separate benefit for complex rehab:

I realize that everyone has to work for themselves, but I like talking as one industry. When I needed help, the respiratory people were there; the O&P and disposables people were there. I don't like being singled out: Well, you  need more money, but everyone else doesn't need more money. It's true that our situation is a little more dire, because our margins aren't as good as some other aspects of the industry. I'm obviously for it. I just hope it doesn't affect other aspects of the industry to help us.

That's pretty insightful for a provider who, potentially, has a lot to gain from this effort becoming a reality.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, October 19, 2009

I had already listened to Don Clayback's presentation on creating a new benefit for complex power wheelchairs earlier this month (click here for my story), but I attended his presentation at Medtrade, anyway.

I'm glad I did.

The presentation may have been the same, but because attendees asked different questions, Clayback and other members of the steering committee offered a few new details. Here are a few of those details, plus some observations:

  • What products will be included in the benefit? Clayback says committee members will "get down to the code level at some point," but right now, they're looking more at the process, rather than products. They're asking themselves: What are the outcomes we're looking for? Having said that, the new benefit will likely include alternative systems like standers.
  • "You're on the right track," said one attendee.
  • Will the new benefit affect reimbursement? Committee members plan to address who gets reimbursed and how they get reimbursed, said Gary Gilberti, a committee member and president of NCART. But with "no clear delineation" of the roles between rehab professionals and therapists, it could get messy, pointed out Simon Margolis, a committee member and executive director of NRRTS. The groups need to "work together," he said.
  • Part of the presentation was a strongly-worded call to action. "What concerns me the most is you," Margolis said to attendees. "You're not going to like what comes out of the bottom of the hopper unless you've put some feed in at the top." Those who don't participate in the process "can't bitch at us later," he warned.

Liz Beaulieu

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