Accessories issue passes another hurdle

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Friday, June 28, 2019

WASHINGTON – A bill in the House of Representatives that would temporarily stop Medicare from applying competitive bidding pricing to accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs is headed to the floor for a full vote.

The Ways and Means Committee passed H.R. 3429, the “HEARTS and Rural Relief Act,” with a voice vote after a “mark up” session on Wednesday, June 26.

“This means the bill has been fully vetted, so it’ll be much easier to get it to a full vote,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “Now it’s a question of scheduling. The committee leadership and our champions are looking for opportunities to bring it to the floor.”

The focus of H.R. 3429 is providing health care for returning troops and service members, but it also includes language from H.R. 2293, a bill introduced earlier this year by Reps. John Larson, D-Conn., and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y. The only difference between the two bills: H.R. 3429 would suspend bid pricing for 12 months vs. 18 months.

H.R. 3429 could be put to a full vote as soon as next month, before the August recess, stakeholders say.

“That’s what we’re hearing,” said Seth Johnson, senior vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “You never know what’s going to happen, with the different trade agreements and other issues on the Hill, but that’s the goal.”

It’s still “premature to talk votes,” stakeholders say, but they note that late last year, the House passed similar language that was part of a larger bill, H.R. 7217, by a wide margin (400-11).

“That gives us some credibility,” Clayback said.

If the bill passes the House, it will be handed over to the Senate, which is familiar with the issue (H.R. 7217 stalled in the Senate, largely due to a government shutdown, in January). The Senate will also likely work with the House language again, despite having its own version of the bill, S. 1223, introduced earlier this year by Sens. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

“We’ve had that conversation with Sens. Casey and Portman, and we all agree that whatever the House sends over, they’ll consider that, if it passes before their bill goes through,” Johnson said.

In the meantime, stakeholders urge providers to keep talking up the issue. H.R. 2293 and S. 1223 had 63 and eight co-sponsors, respectively, at press time.

“That will help to encourage the lawmakers to keep working in the right direction,” Clayback said.