Doctors: Prepare to go face-to-face with patients

Saturday, July 31, 2004

WASHINGTON -  Details for a new Medicare regulation that requires doctors to perform a face-to-face evaluation of a patient before prescribing a power wheelchair should be released any day now, say industry watchers.

The Medicare Prescription Drug Act, which President Bush signed into law in December, mandated the face-to-face evaluation as a way to reduce fraud and unnecessary utilization. The law didn’t, however, spell out particulars about the face-to-face meeting. For example: what documentation is required to prove that the examination has take place; what is the allowable timeframe between the face to face and when the doctor prescribes the chair; what is required of a beneficiary who for whatever reason can’t make it to his doctor’s office?

“We wrote a letter to CMS, saying here are some scenarios where it really could create a problem. So what exactly do you mean by face to face,” said Eric Sokol, director of the Power Mobility Coalition. “We’re glad they are going to come out with some clarification.”

Exactly what the regulations will look like is anyone’s guess. CMS has played its cards pretty close to the vest on this issue. “We’re not anticipating that it will be a problem, provided CMS is rational,” said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare’s vice president of government relations.