Lawmakers introduce new and improved complex rehab bill

Friday, March 20, 2015

WASHINGTON – Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., introduced a bill yesterday to create a separate benefit for complex rehab—with a twist.

The bill, H.R. 1516, is the same as last year’s, with the addition of a provision to make all complex rehab items purchase items, not capped rental items.

“When we looked at what has happened since the bill was originally drafted, one of the primary things is this issue around some CRT items being classified as capped rental,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “Our sponsors agreed with that.”

CMS transitioned 78 codes, including manual wheelchairs with tilt-in-space and power assist, to capped-rental status on April 1, 2014.

In addition to a bill in the House, Sens. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., will reintroduce a companion bill in the Senate in the near future, Clayback says.

“They’re committed to getting it reintroduced, it’s just a matter of prioritizing it with the rest of their workload,” he said.

While in past years the industry’s focus around the bills has been educational—what is complex rehab and how is it used—this year it’s action, Clayback says.

“We made great progress last year in raising awareness of CRT,” he said. “Now that we have a more informed Congress, what do we need to do strategically to work with our sponsors and key committees to really get the bill pushed over the goal line?”

Since the industry doesn’t envision the bills as standalone bills, one of the first strategic challenges is finding a vehicle for them. One good vehicle, the “doc fix,” will likely come and go in March before the industry has a chance to hitch a ride, Clayback says.

“We’re out there and it’s an option, but we’re also pursuing other options later in the year,” he said.

The industry’s efforts have already gotten a big boost from the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The organization has agreed to mobilize its membership to lobby lawmakers to pass the bills. The MDA joins more than 50 other organizations that have already thrown their weight behind the bills.

Last year’s bills in the House and Senate drew 168 and 22 co-sponsors, respectively.

“Every year, we’re making more progress,” Clayback said.