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On the Editor's Desk

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, July 20, 2009

Capabilities President Kathryn Arbour last month became the “Denver Mobility Products Examiner” for examiner.com, a Web site that offers news on everything from business to entertainment. Arbour, one of thousands of “examiners,” posts news to the Web site several times a week, attracting hundreds of hits. Recent topics: “The hemi adjustable wheelchair” and “Low vision tools for independence." Arbour said: "Obviously, the more we get identified as experts for solutions, not just products, the more customers will have confidence in us.”

Arbour also writes a blog on capabilities.com and contributes to Prime Time for Seniors, a local newspaper for seniors, and Disaboom, a community Web site for people with disabilities.

See an upcoming issue of HME News for more!

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, July 17, 2009

This just in, courtesy of Pride Mobility's Seth Johnson:

As you know, the House draft healthcare reform bill includes a provision that would eliminate the first-month purchase option for Group 1 and Group 2 power wheelchairs. It exempts Group 3 complex power wheelchairs.

But "there is some talk about an alternative provision," Johnson said. "Nothing has been offered yet, but it would preserve the purchase option (and) meet the goals of the committees."

The Senate Finance Committee's draft healthcare reform bill, which industry stakeholders expect to be released some time this week, so far doesn't contain the provision.

"The Senate has heard quite a bit from consumer and clinician groups in support of preserving the option," he said. "That appears to be resonating well."

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, July 15, 2009

I know I post a lot of product-related news on this blog (Angel Hands, Jack Eadie, FreeWheel) but I can't help it. I'm continually amazed by what poeple come up with to help wheelchair users live as free and fun a life as possible. My latest find: SoloRider, a cart with a mechanical seat and waist and chest straps that allows wheelchair users to golf.

Life Focus Disability Golfing 20090714

Pictured above is Shane Dunnett, a wheelchair user who plays basketball, rides an ATV, camps, fishes, raises a family and, now, golfs.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, July 14, 2009

This just in, courtesy of The VGM  Group:

The House Tri-Committees, which includes the Ways and Means; Energy and Commerce; and Labor Health and Human Services, has just released its version of the healthcare reform bill.  While the actual bill language will be released tomorrow (Tuesday), VGM was able to obtain an advanced copy.  Currently, VGM is analyzing the 850-page draft bill, and as of 5:15 p.m. CDT, has not noted any additional reduction in payments for durable medical equipment.  However, the bill does include language to eliminate the first-month purchase option for power-driven wheelchairs.

Click here to view a copy of the bill.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

This is a heart-warming and heart-wrenching story that was published in the St. Petersburg Times on July 5 about an invention called Angel Hands. It rolls under the legs of a disabled person, then closes and lifts.

a4s_lift070509_74896c

Angel Hands' inventor, Gary Kluckhuhn, envisions it moving through different parts of a disabled person's home on ceiling tracks, giving him new found independence.  No need for a caregiver to carry him or slide him into a more traditional patient lift. Kluckhuhn's stepmother, who works with disabled people, said "hoisting people in slings (is) a remnant of the Dark Ages."

The story of Angel Hands is intertwined with the story of J.T. Doody, a marine who lost a leg in Iraq. He also suffered from a bacerial infection that affected his brain.

Here's how the story ends...or should I say begins:

Just a few weeks ago, an Angel Hands prototype hung from J.T.'s ceiling. It was the first test spin on an actual patient. A VA official was there to witness.

Robert Bolline, the man who lifts lifeboats, worked a control box that dropped the robotic hands on either side of J.T.'s hips. The little conveyor belts spun with a soft whir, and the hands slid under J.T.'s legs.

J.T. yelled, "Up, up and away!"

He was aloft, swinging toward his wheelchair.

Angel Hands' makers believe it requires a thousand more hours of engineering and a couple of more million dollars. They've approached the National Institutes of Health for a small business innovation and research grant. The goal is to develop a sleeker, smaller Angel Hands that J.T. and other disabled people can operate.

Then, when J.T. one day finds his own reasons for getting out of bed, he'll be able to do it himself.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Here are a few upcoming wheelchair athletic events:

The 29th National Veterans Wheelchair Games kicks off next week (July 13-18) in Spokane, Wash. More than 500 wheelchair athletes will compete in everything from quad rugby to archery to power soccer (shown below) to track and field. Admission is free to the public, if you're in the area.

slideshow_demo_29

And the 30th US Open Wheelchair Championships takes place Sept. 1-6 in St. Louis. Sponsors include the HME industry's own The Roho Group and U.S. Rehab.

On that note, I'm taking off to go get some exercise. I'd do it outside, if it weren't raining...again!

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cigna Government Services, the DME MAC for Jurisdiction C, pointed out in a June 26 bulletin that manual wheelchair issues make up, on average, 8% of all redeterminations. Fifty-four percent of those issues involve same or similar denials. As such, Cigna reminded providers that they should make certain that beneficiaries understand that manual and power wheelchairs are considered similar equipment. Medicare will not cover both items when they are used simultaneously. Backup wheelchairs have no coverage benefit. Same or similar denials also occur when more than one provider supplies equipment.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I just finished writing two stories for our August issue about rehab providers that are using technology to improve their productivity.

ATG Rehab recently announced plans to arm all of its 70 rehab technology suppliers (RTSs) with customized tablet PCs to complete documentation in the field and upload it wirelessly. Using the technology, RTSs like Brian Edwards have been able to provide wheelchairs—from evaluation to delivery—in about 65 days instead of 85 days. (The industry average, by the way, is 90 to 100 days.)

Then there's Jim Noland, owner of Presque Isle Rehabilitation. He's beta-testing a Web-based software program that simplifies the process of creating and completing letters of medical necessity (LMNs) for wheelchairs. Noland says he was inspired to develop LMNBuilder after years of getting "gargage letters" from therapists, which hurt his chances of getting paid.

These rehab providers aren't just complaining about cuts—and there's plenty to complain about.

They're men of action.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

This just in, courtesy of an e-mail blast yesterday from NRRTS: It's rumored that, to help pay for healthcare reform, the Senate Finance Committee, like the House Ways and Means Committee, will propose eliminating the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs. But the Senate Finance Committee may exclude Group 3 power wheelchairs. Officially, members of the Senate Finance Committee left Capitol Hill last week for their July 4th recess without releasing their draft bill.

In the meantime, NRRTS encourages registrants to call lawmakers on the Ways and Means Committee. It provided the following conversation template:

"Please tell Congressman <name>  or Congresswoman <name> that I <live> or <work> in their District and I am opposed to the elimination of the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs as proposed in the discussion draft published by the House Ways and Means; Energy & Commerce; and Education & Labor Committees. The specific language that I oppose is on page 208-209, Section 1141 of the document. I would like the Congressman <or> Congresswoman to know that this proposal, to eliminate the first month purchase option for power wheelchairs, will have a devastating impact on the quality and access to service for my clients with significant disabilities - who are his <or> her constituents as well."

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, June 25, 2009

I stumbled across this blog today (I know, I know; I'm blogging about a blog!) that features photos of concept wheelchairs designed by Jack Eadie. Who's Jack Eadie? I'm not sure. I found this bio of him online. It looks like he's a third-year university student in Australia who's designing an electric power wheelchair as part of his final year project. Anyway, you have to check out these chairs. They look cool, and they seem functional. The blogger describes them as "sorta a Segway/wheelchair hybrid." I'm not sure chairs like this will hit the market any time soon, but it's always neat to see how a pair of young eyes views a product that's been around for decades.

Jake Eadie

Liz Beaulieu

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