In-the-home bill gains momentum

Thursday, May 31, 2007

WASHINGTON - While some industry groups and providers only have eyes for the rehab carve-out bill, others have made the recently introduced in-the-home bill their No. 1 priority.
On March 29, Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Jim Ramstad, R-Minn., introduced the Medicare Independent Living Act of 2007 with bi-partisan support from 10 co-sponsors. The bill proposes the "elimination of the in-the-home restriction for Medicare coverage of mobility devices for individuals with expected long-term needs."
The ITEM Coalition, a consumer advocacy group in Washington, D.C., worked with Langevin and Ramstad, both co-chairs of the Bipartisan Disabilities Caucus, to introduce the bill.
"We feel that support for changing this outdated restriction is really building," said Emily Niederman, a spokeswoman for the coalition. "We're hoping the bill will move this year."
The ITEM Coalition succeeded in getting bills introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate last year, but they languished without a larger bill to house them.
Industry groups like NCART and NRRTS have indicated that, while they support the in-the-home bill, they have made the rehab carve-out bill their primary focus.
Providers like The Scooter Store, however, plan to play an "active supporting role" to the ITEM Coalition by helping the group to collect co-sponsors for its bill.
"We need to eliminate the in-the-home restriction once and for all," said Mark Leita, director of public affairs for The Scooter Store. "It's hard to imagine a member of Congress who's not willing to help their constituents become better citizens within their communities."
Proponents of the bill argue that CMS misuses the restriction. According to the ITEM Coalition: "The statutory 'in the home' language was originally meant to define DME as devices that were provided outside of a hospital or skilled nursing facility and, therefore, warranted separate reimbursement under Medicare Part B, rather than Part A. However, over time, Medicare has chosen to interpret this language in a way that restricts coverage of mobility devices to only those that are reasonable and necessary in the individual's home."