Behind the scenes

CRT stakeholders off and running with companion bills
Friday, May 17, 2013

WASHINGTON – Tenacious efforts by providers, consumers and manufacturers led to last week’s introduction of a bipartisan Senate bill that would create a separate benefit for complex rehab, stakeholders say.

“This proves that individual conversations do make a difference,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “Members will respond—with enough noise—to the needs of the people.”

That “noise” sure reached Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Thad Cochran, R-Miss., who introduced S. 948, the “Ensuring Access To Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act of 2013,” on May 15. The bill contains the same language as its House counterpart, H.R. 942, introduced in March by Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis. H.R. 942 currently has 40 co-sponsors.

Clayback said a lot of effort went into getting the two senators to introduce the bill, but a visit to Rifton Equipment’s facility in New York was what really opened Schumer’s eyes to the importance of complex rehab. Rifton’s message to Schumer was simple, said Joe Keiderling.

“The patients that need this equipment have multiple and profound disabilities,” said Keiderling, executive vice president of Rifton. “This kind of equipment needs to be protected.”

For Cochran, having members of his home state champion the bill during the National CRT Conference in April started the ball rolling. Bringing a consumer advocate to the meeting also helped hit home the difference between complex rehab and other HME, said John Morgan.

“I said ‘This is the House bill, Sen. Schumer is introducing a companion bill, and we need a co-sponsor,’” said Morgan, national sales manager for Freedom Designs and PinDot. “He said, ‘Count me in.’”

Of course, it took more calls and effort to finalize the deal, but Morgan says the bill’s “noble cause” was attractive to the senator and will be to others, too.

“If you can get them to see what the bill does, people will sign on,” said Morgan. “I don’t think we’ll get many ‘Nos,’ especially when they see it was introduced bipartisan. Lawmakers are hungry to jump on a bipartisan bill because there aren’t many.”

While there is still hard work ahead—including finding more co-sponsors for both bills, getting a score from the CBO and attaching it to a larger piece of legislation—the groundwork has been laid, says Simon Margolis.

“It’s a matter of momentum,” said Margolis, executive director of NRRTS. “After five years of education, very few people on the Hill don’t understand this issue now.”