CMS seeks input
WASHINGTON – For months, stakeholders have voiced concerns about repairing power wheelchairs under competitive bidding, and now, it looks like CMS is finally ready to listen.
“They have acknowledged that there is a problem,” said Alex Bennewith, vice president, government relations for United Spinal Association. “It’s beyond bidding, too—there are conflicting policies coming out of CMS about what suppliers should be doing.”
CMS has enlisted AAHomecare and United Spinal to collect data from power wheelchair providers and users about repair issues. Both associations are conducting surveys and will share results with the agency in October.
AAHomecare’s preliminary results don’t paint a pretty picture.
“There’s definitely a significant change in the number of providers willing to do repairs between 2012 and 2013,” said Peter Rankin, government affairs manager at AAHomecare. “They’ve stopped because the reimbursement rates are too low, and it’s difficult to acquire the paperwork for a wheelchair you didn’t provide.”
Without knowing if a power wheelchair is medically necessary, providers are gambling on whether or not they’ll get paid for doing repairs, stakeholders say. The problem is further exacerbated by confusion over who is allowed to do what kind of repair under competitive bidding, they say.
That leaves both providers and patients in a tough position, Bennewith says.
“They pay out of pocket or they’re stuck in bed, stuck at home—one beneficiary had to use duct tape on her wheelchair’s footplates. That’s not a solution,” she said. “That’s not how health care should be conducted for this population.”