CMS' Presence Felt at Medtrade 2006

ATLANTA — Medtrade is typically a product and technology celebration for the HME industry. It's a time when manufacturers excitedly roll out new products and then wait, collective breaths held, as suppliers and clinicians react.

This year, however, the mobility and rehab industries held their breaths for an additional reason: the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The agency made its presence keenly felt, as a revised Local Coverage Determination (LCD) for power mobility devices (PMD) was released late in the afternoon on Wednesday, Sept. 20, the second day of Medtrade. Industry insiders had anticipated the revised LCD for several days, and coincidentally, news of it broke during the annual update meeting of the National Coalition for Assistive & Rehab Technology (NCART). NCART President Rita Hostak, who is also the VP of government relations for Sunrise Medical, announced the revised LCD's arrival and the new Nov. 15 implementation date during her presentation.

Even before the LCD announcement about halfway through the meeting, Hostak had addressed the dangers the rehab community faced due to competitive bidding, scheduled to start next year. NCART, Hostak said, asked itself, "What can we do proactively?" — which led to the creation of the Medicare Access to Complex Rehab & Assistive Technology Act of 2006. The act effectively seeks to exclude rehab equipment from competitive bidding. Hostak added that The Moran Co. had been hired to score the cost of such a competitive bidding exemption so the rehab industry could tell legislators and other stakeholders exactly what a rehab carve-out would cost.

Hostak added that NCART, mindful of other topics on CMS' agenda, had just finished a manual chair coding proposal.

All the reimbursement dramas, still continuing to unfold, apparently had a positive impact on Medtrade attendees' decisions to attend more educational sessions while at the show, said VNU Expositions, which produces Medtrade. More than 2,500 providers were reported to have taken part in the educational conference that started the day before the exhibit hall opened, then ran during show hours the next three days. The day-long reimbursement conference, in just its second year on the slate, was sold out.

VNU reports overall show attendance at approximately 16,000 HME providers, home health care professionals and manufacturers. More than 800 exhibitors displayed and demonstrated products and services.

And despite the usual avalanche of new products and the unusual number of major reimbursement announcements during the week, the industry still took time out to help others. The second annual American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) Humanitarian Dinner raised approximately $70,000 for home care patient organizations. Last year, the inaugural event raised funds to help home care patients and providers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Honored at this year's dinner was Invacare Corp. Chairman/CEO Mal Mixon (see related story in this section).

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