NCART Recaps 2014 So Far, Looks to the Future

One hundred forty one: That's the number of co-sponsors who have signed onto H.R. 942 as of June 25, according to Don Clayback, executive director of NCART.

Progress of the bill, which would establish a separate Medicare benefit category for complex rehab technology (CRT), was one of the main industry points touched upon by Clayback in providing stakeholders with a mid-year update.

In addition to the House bill, Clayback pointed out that the companion bill in the Senate, S. 948, has 16 co-sponsors. Support for both bills has been bi-partisan in nature.

Recent co-signers came about in part due to the work of National CRT Conference attendees who met with members of Congress in Washington, D.C., last month. Clayback said the 2015 CRT Conference, a joint venture of NCART and NRRTS, would take place March 10-12.

Going forward, Clayback added, NCART would be focusing on adding co-sponsors to both bills, moving toward attaining Congressional Budget Office scoring, and seeking to get the bills attached to larger Medicare-related legislation.

NCART is also working on a number of other industry issues, including participating in an industry Wheelchair Repair Work Group, formed to address ongoing difficulties that Medicare beneficiaries are having when their power mobility devices need service.

The service and repair issue has become increasingly challenging due to the number of suppliers who have gone out of business due to Medicare's competitive bidding program - and due to the sheer volume of beneficiaries who own equipment originally provided by the now-defunct Scooter Store.

Among the work group's efforts: Advocating for so-called "abandoned" beneficiaries to sign a statement attesting to that fact, and allowing qualified suppliers to provide needed repairs "solely based on a physician's detailed written order," Clayback said.

At present, many providers are hesitant to service vehicles belonging to abandoned beneficiaries because it is difficult or impossible to obtain complete documentation about the original equipment provision. Suppliers now stepping in to perform repairs run the risk of having Medicare deny their repair claims, because Medicare can claim the beneficiaries didn't qualify for PMDs and that the equipment should never have been provided in the first place.

The work group has also recommended that repair/replacement part codes be excluded from Medicare's competitive bidding program to reinstate "traditional rates and allow all suppliers to provide repair parts."

In a summation of the CRT policy progress being made, Clayback pointed out that CRT "recognition" - the state equivalent to a Medicare "separate benefit category" for CRT - has been achieved in Colorado, Connecticut and Washington.

Through industry efforts, ultralightweight manual wheelchairs (HCPCS code K0005) and adult manual tilt-in-space wheelchairs (E1161) have been classified as CRT and excluded from Medicare's competitive bidding program, Clayback noted.

NCART's Web site and the access2crt.org Web site, which tracks CRT advocacy issues, have also both been recently updated, Clayback added.

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

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