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by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm curious about...

Remember when the contract winners were announced for the first round of national competitive bidding? Remember how The Scooter Store won 39 contracts, but only two of them were for standard power, its bread and butter. The  bulk of its contracts were for complex power, a market it had only recently entered; negative pressure wound therapy; and oxygen.

Both complex rehab (except Group 2 wheelchairs) and wound therapy have been carved out of Round 1.2.

How does that change The Scooter Store's strategy?

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Here's a good example of the potential damage a consumer group can do (in this case, the AARP) when its views and the industry's views don't match up.

So, when I saw the news that the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) plans to poll wheelchair users on their ability to access appropriate technology and service, I thought: That's great; they're finally concerned that the average 27% reimbursement cut to power wheelchairs in 2006 and the 9.5% reimbursement cut in 2009 have affected access.

I spoke with Eric Larson, the NSCIA's executive director, this week. He is concerned about access, but he has no plans to jump into bed with the rehab manufacturers or providers. Here's what he had to say:

HME: So the poll is an effort by the NSCIA to add its voice to those of providers and manufacturers?
Larson: Exactly. It also addresses the need for more valid, objective data to enhance the argument.
HME: The rehab industry has long talked about strengthening its relationships with consumer groups.
Larson: We can’t align ourselves completely with the industry. In fact, we need to do the opposite—take a more independent stance and speak with a more independent voice.
HME: So how should the rehab industry and consumer groups work together?
Larson: The idea isn’t for us to become one, but for us to understand our strategic interests. We both need the same group of people to be healthy to fulfill our missions. We don’t need to agree with each other on everything—from time to time, I expect consumers will say things that those in the rehab industry aren’t going to be thrilled to hear—but 99% of the time, there’s enough alignment.

See the October issue of HME News for more.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Thursday, August 20, 2009

A few interesting things posted to the Web recently:

Jedi Mind, a company that develops thought-controlled technology, has launched a medical applications division. According to a release:

There are enormous opportunities in the medical field for products to make life easier for patients, such as people in wheelchairs and amputees. With the use of the wireless headset, a patient would be able to control his or her wheelchair with the power of their minds. Quadriplegics that currently control their mobility with use of their mouth and a joystick would be able to simply think the commands and move in the direction they were thinking. Amputees could control the use of robotic limbs through the power of their minds."

To date, Jedi Mind has been busy developing video games using the technology, but it has had "numerous enquiries" about medical applications. All of this is well and good, but the links for the company's Web site and its page on Pink Sheets don't work. Are they for real?

I've read articles before about organizations that collect used wheelchairs and loan them to people who need them. But the Bellingham Central Lions Club takes it to a new level. According to an article published in the Bellingham Herald in Washington state, the club loans about 2,000 wheelchairs a year. At any one time, it has 600 wheelchairs out on loan. That's a lot of wheelchairs! The club's customers include people waiting for their insurance to kick in. Do providers offer a similar service to their customers? To the public at large?

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, August 18, 2009

If you want a visual reminder of how frustrating it is to be a rehab provider these days, check out the cover of the summer issue of Directions magazine published by NRRTS.

The cover story, "Medicaid Madness," details NRRTS's decision to form a Medicaid Committee to "draw all the individual state Medicaid issues out into the open." The committee needs at least one NRRTS registrant and friend of NRRTS (FON) from each state to submit monthly reports, so the organization can aggregrate information and identify common themes.

Michelle Jackson-McMahan, NRRTS review chairwoman and president/CEO of Frontier Access & Mobility in Cheyenne, Wyo., will lead the committee. Contact her at to volunteer.

NRRTS believes: "If Medicare doesn't destroy complex rehab, Medicaid will."

Liz Beaulieu

P.S. Isn't this an initiative that NCART supposedly took on back in 2005?

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, August 17, 2009

So, we just sent our September issue to the printers last week, and after a long weekend of not really relaxing in Baxter State Park (primarily due to a trifecta of black flies, mosquitoes and noseeums), we're ready to start on the October issue. For the Rehab section, it looks like there's going to be a lot of follow-up news.

No surprise, there, when you think about all the issues still on the table. There are efforts to prevent the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs from being eliminated. There are efforts to create a separate benefit for complex rehab. There are also efforts to create a specialty certification for wheeled seating and mobility.

On a state level, California is considering contracting for manual wheelchairs and Georgia is tinkering with how it pays for complex wheelchairs.

Here's one I haven't thought about in a while: There are efforts to revamp the manual wheelchair benefit.

Stay tuned.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

This past weekend, Michael Miller, who was born with spina bifida, wheelied in a wheelchair 40 times around a quarter-mile track, logging 10.016 miles, breaking the former record of 8.097 miles set by Paul Stares of England in 2005, according to an article in the Post-Crescent. Miller, a 19 year old from Ellington, Wis., wheelied for 3 hours and 55 minutes. He now awaits word from Guinness World Records to see if  his name will appear in its next edition.


Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, August 10, 2009

"Glee," a new TV show about a group of geeks who join the choir, is producing a musical number with wheelchairs, The Salt Lake Tribue reported last week. The musical revolves around the challenges of Artie (played by able-bodied Kevin McHale) being in the choir and being in a wheelchair.  Show co-creator Brad Falchuck said at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour last week: "We wanted visually for people to see having somebody handicapped was sort of important to us. And also...the idea of somebody who is in a wheelchair in a show choir is kind of interesting. It's, like, 'Well, what can he do? What can't he do?' Well, he can do a lot of things."

Liz Beaulieu


by: Liz Beaulieu - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Invacare's rehab group is cooking with gas.

During its presentation at Invacare Media Day today, the group shared the deets on its latest marketing strategies. The newest: A rehab-specific Web site targeted at providers, consumers and clinicians ( The interactive Web site features Flash-based video demonstrations, an accessories catalogue, and clinical benefit and reimbursement educational guides for Invacare's newest offerings, including the Solara 3G and Spree 3G tilt-in-space wheelchairs.

Other marketing strategies: a rehab van and rehab summit. The  van, which carries 25 different products, has made 75 visits nationwide so far. The van allows the Invacare sales reps to introduce referral sources to products on their home turf. The rehab summit, now in its second year, comprises a tour of the company's plant and educational sessions for CEUs.

The rehab group also introduced its Zinger Wheelchair Power Add-on, a frame-like structure that attaches to a manual wheelchair, making it a power wheelchair. The Zinger adds only 25 to 30 pounds to a chair, and it's removable. The group believes it's perfect for manual wheelchair users who get strain injuries in their shoulders from too much pushing but who don't want a fully powered chair. Invacare expects to make the Zinger available  in the second quarter of 2010.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Monday, August 3, 2009

NRRTS will sponsor the Complex Rehab Pavilion at Medtrade, the organization announced this afternoon. The pavilion will be a grouping of 20-plus booths that all share this theme: equipment and services to meet the complex needs of people with disabilities. NRRTS will also facilitate two educational programs at Medtrade: “Complex Rehab—Legislative and Regulatory Update” by Don Clayback, executive director of NCART; and “Consumer Self-Advocacy—The Key to The Future of Complex Rehab” by Ann Eubank, executive director of the Users First Alliance, and Jeffrey Leonard, publisher of New Mobility magazine. Medtrade will take place at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta Oct. 13-15.

Liz Beaulieu

by: Liz Beaulieu - Friday, July 31, 2009

From the Fun Friday Files:

img26914Kate Matelan of Pennsylvania was crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA on July 25 in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. The 21-year-old Matelan, who became paralyzed in a car accident when she was 5 years old, is a senior majoring in business administration at Bucknell University. Judges commended Matelan on her disability efforts on campus, including a meeting with university officials to discuss obstacles like lab tables in science classrooms that are too high for students in wheelchairs. As Ms. Wheelchair USA, Matelan will take her awareness efforts nationwide. She told The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.:

''Having a disability does not hinder me from achieving my goals nor does it mean that I have boundaries put on my future possibilities,'' she said.

Liz Beaulieu