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On the Editor's Desk

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, July 24, 2009

The Senate stalled on its health care reform bill this week and it doesn't look like the House will make much progress before breaking for the August recess. While that may disappoint President Obama, it's a spot of good news for the rehab industry.
"This give providers more time to educate lawmakers on the impact of the elimination of the first month purchase option for power wheelchairs," said Pride Mobility's Seth Johnson. "When you look at the impact—there is a loss of jobs, loss of beneficiary access and ultimately, a loss to the economy."
Providers have their work cut out for them. A CNN story early in the week slammed the industry on Medicare reimbursement. Still, Johnson, who met with several Senate Finance Committee members this week said the industry's message is getting through to lawmakers.
"They have heard loud and clear from providers, manufacturers and consumers that there is a lot of concern with the elimination of the first month purchase option," he said.
Theresa Flaherty

by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, July 22, 2009

NRRTS took to YouTube yesterday to respond to a CNN report that claims Medicare overpays for wheelchairs.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The mainstream media (and whoever has their ear) has impeccable timing when it comes to haranguing the HME industry. CNN aired a segment last night about how the answer to Medicare's problem of overpaying for wheelchairs is national competitive bidding. This just as the industry works to get a bill introduced to eliminate the program (We reported in yesterday's NewsWire that the bill is "imminent.").

Liz Beaulieu

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

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