Policy Updates

New CRT Wheelchair Accessory Bills Introduced in House & Senate

Policy Updates

CAPITOL: BRANDON BOURDAGES/SHUTTERSTOCK

New bills regarding funding for complex rehab technology (CRT) wheelchair accessories have been introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

According to NCART Executive Director Don Clayback, the new bill numbers are H.R. 1361 for the House and S. 486 for the Senate.

In a March 3 letter to industry stakeholders, Clayback thanked the “CRT champions” who introduced the bills: Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.).

The bills seek to prevent the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) from applying prices derived from its highly controversial Medicare competitive bidding program to the CRT accessories used on complex manual and power wheelchairs.

This issue has been before Congress in the past, and has enjoyed strong bipartisan support. But previous bills expired before being passed.

Seeking More Than Delays

Among the industry’s arguments against CMS’s funding for CRT wheelchair accessories is that the agency is wrongly applying competitive bidding pricing for standard wheelchair accessories to complex rehab wheelchair accessories.

NCART also points out that the Medicare Improvements for Patients & Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) already excluded complex rehab power wheelchairs and their accessories from CMS’s ongoing competitive bidding program.

In a March 8 letter to the industry, the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) acknowledged that the CMS-backed funding policy has been partially delayed twice in the past, but argues that the CRT industry and the consumers it serves needs more than stopgap measures. The most recent and current delay, which came at the end of last year as part of the well-publicized 21st Century CURES Act, expires July 1.

AAHomecare said in the bulletin, “CRT providers need a permanent fix that will ensure that they can continue to support individuals with serious disabilities that depend on this specialized equipment. If bidding-derived pricing is allowed to slash reimbursement rates, these companies simply can’t provide the level of clinical care associated with CRT products and accessories, including patient evaluation, as well as configuration, fitting and adjustments for the equipment.”

Is a Solution Finally on the Horizon?

AAHomecare’s announcement quoted Georgie Blackburn, VP of government relations/legislative affairs for BLACKBURN’S in Tarentum, Pa.

“After two timely delays, rehab providers are finally at a critical juncture where the ill-conceived proposed cuts to 171 CRT accessory codes can be put to rest,” said Blackburn. “Plain and simple, MIPPA 2008 exempted CRT power chairs and accessories from the bid program. I’m thrilled to see that we have Congressional leadership recognizing this, resulting in S.486 and H.R. 1361, and that we now have Sec. Tom Price leading HHS [the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services]. I have never felt so optimistic that logic will prevail when it comes to public policy for CRT!”

Clayback said in his March 3 announcement that NCART would next work on signing up cosponsors for each of the bills.

“We will be updating our materials to help you reach out to your members of Congress,” he said. “Stay tuned and polish up your advocacy skills. This is going to be a great year for CRT!

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Mobility Management.

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