Accessories fight now has weight of both chambers

Friday, October 23, 2015

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders are one step closer to protecting access to accessories for complex rehab wheelchairs. 

Last week, Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., introduced a bill that would provide a technical correction preventing CMS from applying competitive bid pricing to accessories for complex rehab wheelchairs on Jan. 1. Original co-sponsors for S. 2196 include Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss.

Casey, Portman and Schumer serve on the Senate Finance Committee, while Cochran serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I don’t think we could have asked for a better lineup,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “When other members of Congress see those four names on the bill it adds a level of credibility and seriousness right out of the gate.”

The change in pricing, slated for Jan. 1, 2016, could impact as many as 171 codes for wheelchair accessories, according to AAHomecare.

Now that legislation has been introduced in both chambers—H.R. 3229 was introduced in the House of Representatives in July—stakeholders are optimistic about a resolution.

“Based on what we’re hearing from the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, there will be vehicles to attach this page-and-a-half bill to,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs at Pride Mobility. “But we need to keep the noise level up, to strengthen support and build co-sponsors.”

As for what that vehicle could be, that’s up to Congress to decide, says Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations at Invacare.

“It will likely be very late in the year,” she said. “The continuing resolution expires on Dec. 11, so there will be some end-of-the-year legislation that we believe will probably be our best shot, but the people who are going to make that decision are people like Sen. Portman and the leadership in the House.”

Should Congress fail to act before the Jan. 1 deadline, the bill will remain active through the end of 2016; however, stakeholders are committed to getting legislation passed sooner rather than later.

“This is something that has to be addressed before implementation,” said Johnson. “That’s our goal.”