Consumer groups urge legislators to 'weigh in' on PMD codes

Sunday, September 17, 2006

WASHINGTON - In an impressive show of support, 12 disability organizations signed a half-page ad that ran in the Washington, D.C., journal Roll Call last week under the headline: "For many Americans with disabilities...Independence will be decided on October 1."

The ad was the rehab industry's latest effort to stop CMS from implementing new codes, coverage criteria and pricing for power mobility devices next month. Its campaign has included strongly worded letters to the Department of Health and Human Services from a Technical Expert Panel that believes CMS ignored its recommendations for the new codes, RESNA and several legislators.

The industry hopes that pressure from consumer-orientated groups like the American Association of People with Disabilities and the Christopher Reeves Foundation will serve as a shot over the bow for legislators.

"We're hoping that (legislators) will recognize that consumers are looking to them to weigh in on this issue and let CMS know that they need to stop this," said Laura Cohen, co-coordinator of The Clinician Task Force. "We need to get it right the first time."

An estimated 90% of legislators and their staff read Roll Call. The VGM Group took out a full-page ad in the journal in June to alert legislators of the impact that recent HME cuts would have on seniors.

The rehab industry and the consumer groups fear the current codes and coverage criteria "will force seniors and people with disabilities of all ages into inadequate power wheelchairs," according to the ad.

"Many Medicare beneficiaries living with disabilities, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease or Cerebral Palsy, will be confined to their homes because of this new policy," the ad states.

According to the ad: "Americans have a right to a Medicare wheelchair policy that:

-- Provides mobility devices to those who need them most;
-- Bases eligibility on functional needs;
-- Protects against fraudulent and abusive claims; and
-- Doesn't confine individuals to the four walls of their homes."

Other groups that signed the ad: Amputee Coalition of America, The Arc of the United States, the Medicare Rights Center, the National Council on Independent Living, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, the Paralyzed Veterans of America, RESNA, United Cerebral Palsy and the United Spinal Association.