NCART to CMS: Temporary Policy Changes Needed to Protect CRT Access

The new realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, including “social distancing” and restrictions on who’s allowed to enter various businesses and healthcare facilities, is endangering access to complex rehab technology and related services.

That was the message of a March 17 letter sent by NCART to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

NCART is asking for temporary policy changes that would enable CRT suppliers to more effectively serve their clients.

The letter, sent to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, noted that some actions meant to protect the public during the pandemic are unintentionally hindering CRT access.

“The precautions at hospitals, healthcare facilities and clinics are preventing these Medicare beneficiaries from being able to obtain timely wheelchair and seating assessments, deliveries and repairs as CRT suppliers have limited or no access to facilities,” the letter pointed out. “This also creates barriers to obtaining traditional documentation. The lack of timely provision of these needed medically necessary technologies puts people with disabilities at high risk for respiratory complications and other harmful medical conditions.”

Request for Policy Change

As a result of the current situations, NCART asked for temporary policy changes “focused on the medical needs of Medicare beneficiaries who rely on CRT, public safety, and reducing the increasing burden on healthcare systems and administrators.”

Many of NCART’s suggestions included a telehealth or remote evaluation component.

For Face-to-Face requirements, NCART would like CMS to permit “completion of the standard written order as long as the medical record supports the need OR permitting video or telephonic evaluation of the beneficiary to satisfy requirements.”

Video evaluations, the letter noted, could “encourage responsible social distancing by minimizing the number of people in clinics, especially those in fragile populations.”

ATPs should also be allowed to participate in evaluations via video, again to maintain social distancing.

Home assessments should be done verbally by phone interviews of clients and caregivers, along with video assessments of homes, if needed.

CRT suppliers should be allowed to “perform repairs to wheelchairs for beneficiaries with permanent mobility-related disabilities without confirmation of continued need by the physician,” a change that would reduce demands on practitioners already stretched thin.

NCART also sees a need for new policy when there’s an urgent need for the replacement of CRT wheelchairs and custom seating. The policy would need to have a plan for beneficiaries unable to access the required specialty evaluations.

Extending completion and filing deadlines would give seating and mobility professionals additional time to work, the letter said.

And finally, NCART asked that Medicare participating suppliers be allowed to be open to the public for fewer than 30 hours per week if the supplier needs to close a particular office location to preserve and protect employee and customer safety.

The letter to CMS was signed by NCART Executive Director Don Clayback, who said in a bulletin to the industry that NCART is “working on similar issues and solutions at the state level.”

To see the letter, click HERE.

 

About the Author

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

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