Consumers log 1,100 calls for carve-out

Sunday, May 25, 2008

WASHINGTON - Legislators asked and on May 22 they received.

During a call-in and Capitol Hill visits in April, legislators told providers that they wanted to hear from consumers and clinicians that complex rehab should be excluded from national competitive bidding. During another call-in on May 22, they heard from about 1,100 consumers and clinicians.

"In my view, this is unprecedented," said Paul Bergantino, an NCART board member who helped organize the call-in. "The consumers and clinicians really rallied behind us."

The May call-in, hosted by The MED Group and Sunrise Medical, was sponsored by a whopping 20 consumer and clinician groups. A few of those: American Association of People with Disabilities, America Paraplegia Society and National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

During the call-in, participants lobbied for H.R. 2231 and S. 2931, two bills that would exclude complex rehab from competitive bidding. Proponents hope to get the bills attached to a larger Medicare bill that they expect the Senate to introduce before July 1.

Bergantino said the 1,100 calls from consumers and clinicians "are even more valuable" than the 4,500 calls that providers and manufacturers made to legislators during the April call-in.

"These were literally calls made by single people versus whole companies making calls," he said. "There's no doubt we were heard even louder this time."

Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS, agreed.

"This filled out the picture," said Margolis, who publicized the call-in to NRRTS members and FONs (friends of NRRTS). "Hearing from consumers and clinicians will help legislators view equipment more as therapy."