Deadline for Congressional Sign-On Letter Is Aug. 31

Have you contacted your Congressional Representative regarding the sign-on letter to protect access to Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) manual wheelchair accessories?

Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) and Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) have written a bipartisan letter to Seema Verma, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), and are now seeking additional Representatives to sign on.

In an Aug. 6 e-mail to CRT stakeholders, NCART said, “The letter relates to the need for CMS to ‘make permanent’ the temporary policy change that was included in 2019 year-end legislation regarding the Medicare payment amounts for CRT manual wheelchair accessories.”

In the letter, Larson and Zeldin point out that in 2017, CMS issued “a policy clarification” to protect consumer access to CRT power wheelchair accessories.

“However, this did not address Complex manual wheelchair accessories,” the letter says. “To address this gap, in December 2019, Congress passed language from H.R. 1865 to make clear that our intent was for power and manual complex wheelchair accessories to be treated the same. Complex wheelchairs and accessories are critical to allow people with severe disabilities the ability to participate fully in their own lives.”

NCART is spearheading the effort to get as much Congressional support behind the letter as possible.

“Getting as many House Members as we can to sign on to this Congressional letter is especially important,” NCART Executive Director Don Clayback said. “The more signatures, the stronger the message to CMS that they need to take action, just like they did for CRT power wheelchairs in 2017. We’re very thankful to the House Members for writing to ensure people with disabilities have equal access, and we thank all our advocates for helping to get their Members’ signatures as we move through this month.”

The letter additionally differentiates between standard and CRT accessories, saying CRT accessories “are not off-the-shelf commodity items and Competitive Bidding Program pricing for standard wheelchair accessories should not be applied to much different Complex wheelchair accessories.”

Larson and Zeldin explain that CRT accessories “are not nice-to-have items, but instead provide important benefits like preventing skin pressure sores, positioning/supporting the person upright so they can breathe, and allowing the operation of the wheelchair to be tailored to their physical limitations.”

“It would be easy for anyone to hear the term ‘accessories’ and automatically assume that we’re talking about cup holders or bags, which is exactly why we’ve been so meticulous about educating CMS and Congress about what kinds of CRT are truly affected by this policy,” Clayback said. “These are critical components like pressure-relieving cushions, positioning devices, headrests, etc. These items are essential to the ability to individually configure the CRT manual wheelchairs to the person, and not just convenience items. We’ve been consistently sharing that message since 2016 and will continue to make the distinction in all of our messaging and education to ensure that our ‘ask’ is clear.”

Larson and Zeldin noted that access to CRT wheelchairs has become even more important “in helping people with disabilities manage the challenges and risks of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The letter asks Verma to permanently protect CRT manual wheelchair accessories the same way that access to CRT power wheelchair accessories is protected.

Sign onto the letter by visiting www.protectmymobility.org. You can type in your ZIP Code to identify your Representative and send an e-mail asking for the Representative to sign on in support.

The deadline for members to sign on is Monday, Aug. 31.

About the Author

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