Industry appreciates CMS’s openness

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Thursday, September 30, 2004

WASHINGTON - When it comes to crafting a new set of codes for power wheelchairs, it’s hardly business as usual at CMS.

Providers have plenty of concerns when it comes to the proposed codes, but few have issues with the way Medicare honchos have reached out for industry input. The Sept. 1 public hearing scheduled to discuss the codes and solicit industry input was a “significant improvement from where we were a year ago,” said Seth Johnson, director of government affairs at Pride Mobility Products. “We have a dialogue.”

“A good point is that there is a recognition that this is a complex project and can’t be done by three or four people sitting behind closed doors,” said Don Clayback, vice president of networks for The Med Group. “We’ll see how the meeting goes and what kind of feed back we get over the next few weeks. That will tell us whether or not we are in sync.”

To some, CMS’s new openness developed as a result of the Wheeler Dealer power wheelchair scam that blew up late last summer. Medicare redoubled its efforts to thwart crooked providers and control wheelchair utilization following Wheeler Dealer. It didn’t, however, emerge unscathed. In echoing the complaints of providers, the GAO this spring criticized CMS for doing too little too late when it came to combating power chair fraud.

“The good and the bad of Wheeler Dealer is that it gave us a bright stage to stand on and to tell our story,” said Tom Rolick, vice president of business development for Permobil. “It also put the spotlight on CMS. If they come out with new codes that are unreasonable, there is going to a backlash.”

“We have had a rough year but sometimes it takes a crisis to see progress,” added Martin Schmeler, director of the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “We have had that crisis, and we have done right advocating for ourselves and our patients and the industry. I’ve been impressed everyone has pulled together so well.”

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