HME industry offers input, awaits results

Friday, March 31, 2006

BALTIMORE - Now that a technical panel has met with CMS to help develop new mobility codes, the rehab industry must wait to see what the agency makes of its input.
The panel, whose members included manufacturers and providers, met in early February to provide CMS with a "taxonomy of wheelchairs," said Mark Schmeler, a panel member.
"Our purpose was to try to make sure that we've got a good representation and classification of existing technology that wouldn't preclude future technologies," said Schmeler, a faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology.
A company called ECRI, which CMS contracted to oversee the project, was expected to send the agency a report on the panel's recommendations by March 30, said Seth Johnson, chairman of AAHomecare's rehab council and vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility.
By and large, industry participants were pleased with how the two-day meeting went. Panel member Simon Margolis, National Seating and Mobility's vice president for clinical and professional development, called the meeting "an extremely positive step."
Industry players like Margolis appreciated the chance to give CMS their two cents. The agency blindsided the industry in September 2005 with 63 new codes. Manufacturers, especially, were outraged because they had already tested products based on the 49 codes that CMS released in February 2005.
Because CMS took a "more open approach" this time around, the industry's response to the new codes should be much different, Schmeler said. "It's not just CMS trying to develop policy," he said. "People from the industry have been involved. When another draft comes out, I think there will be a little less animosity and fear."
Panel members also discussed testing requirements. A major complaint with the 63 codes that were due to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006: They weren't in line with existing standards.