CRT Industry Top Priority: Protecting Accessories for Manual Wheelchairs

At the end of 2015, it was a bad news/good news scenario for the complex rehab technology (CRT) industry.

First, language to stop Medicare funding cuts for accessories on CRT wheelchairs was left out of Congress’s vast omnibus spending bill, the industry learned on Dec. 15. That, obviously, was critically bad news.

Then came the update on Dec. 17 that language calling for a one-year delay to those CRT funding cuts was instead attached to a bipartisan Medicare bill, the Patient Access & Medicare Protection Act, that was being expedited through the U.S. Senate via a 24-hour “hot line” process.

And on Dec. 18, the final day of the 2015 Congressional session, the industry learned that the bill, formally known as S. 2425, had passed. President Obama signed the bill into law on Dec. 28.

The catch for the industry was that the bill only delayed the funding cuts to accessories used on CRT power wheelchairs. Accessories for CRT manual wheelchairs were still subjected to the Medicare cuts scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2016.

NCART Executive Director Don Clayback explained to Mobility Management, “Unfortunately, Congress did not include the full text of H.R. 3229/S. 2196 in the bill that was passed, and this delay only applies to accessories used with complex power wheelchairs, not to accessories used with complex manual wheelchairs.”

H.R. 3229 and companion bill S. 2196 were the original bills seeking to prevent the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from using competitive bidding-derived pricing to create allowables for accessories used on CRT wheelchairs.

Clayback, however, is still keeping a positive outlook regarding the issue in the new year. “This one-year delay provides us the opportunity in 2016 to further our work on the wheelchair accessories issue and to establish needed improvements for CRT within Medicare and other health insurance programs,” he said.

In a Dec. 23 bulletin to the industry, Clayback said about the one-year delay, “While not a complete win, it is an important one. This one-year delay provides us time for the additional work that must be done, which includes pursuing protection for accessories used with complex manual wheelchairs. We must continue to collaborate with Congress in 2016 to establish the separate recognition of CRT within the Medicare program. Through these efforts, we will achieve the needed comprehensive and permanent changes.”

About the Author

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

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