It’s go-time on wheelchair accessories

Friday, July 1, 2016

WASHINGTON – It’s a tough year to push legislation through Congress, but things are lining up nicely for stakeholders trying to permanently stave off reimbursement cuts to accessories for complex manual and power wheelchairs.

Stakeholders were armed with a recent report from the Government Accountability Office that backs up the need to pass legislation going in to a high-profile lobbying event, the United Spinal Association’s “Roll on Capitol Hill” June 26-29. Another such event, the RESNA/NCART Conference, is July 10-14.

“We’ve gotten support from the GAO, so there are no longer any open questions,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “The first part of the year—the fact that the report wasn’t out, it limited us from moving forward. Now it’s full speed ahead.”

The GAO report not only emphasized the relative smallness of the accessories market for complex power wheelchairs—$154 million in 2014—but also the uniqueness of complex power wheelchairs, in general.

The industry’s champions in Congress agree that the report gives them firm footing to move forward with bills already introduced in the House of Representatives and the Senate that would preclude CMS from applying competitive bidding pricing to accessories for complex manual and power wheelchairs, Clayback says.

“What we’re hearing from our sponsors is, keep the momentum going and continue adding co-sponsors to H.R. 3229 and S. 2196,” he said.

At press time in early July, the bills had 124 and 18 co-sponsors, respectively.

In the meantime, industry champions are searching for possible vehicles for the bills and targeting possible action in September or the lame-duck session after the elections, Clayback says.

“Those are the two windows of opportunity,” he said.

During the “Roll on Capitol Hill,” stakeholders had a record number of 150 wheelchair users from 33 states lobbying for a more permanent fix for accessories.

“We have a good feeling about what we can accomplish with the accessories bills,” said Alex Bennewith, vice president of government relations, for United Spinal.

A previous bill passed in December delayed the application of competitive bidding pricing to accessories for complex power wheelchairs from Jan. 1, 2016, to Jan. 1, 2017. It did not delay the cuts for complex manual wheelchairs.