Legislative update: Industry keeps pushing on several fronts

Thursday, January 14, 2010

WASHINGTON - Industry stakeholders reported last week that they're one step closer to stopping a provision in both the Senate and House healthcare reform bills that would eliminate the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has determined that a "payment reduction alternative" that industry stakeholders helped to craft is budget neutral, says said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility Products.

"As long as it's budget neutral and as long as there are no other objections, it's possible that this provision could be air dropped into the healthcare reform bill, effectively replacing the provision that's currently in there," he said.

The alternative proposes setting reimbursement rates for standard power wheelchairs for 2011-2014 at consumer price index-urban (CPI-U) less 3.5%. That means, for example, if the CPI-U were 2% in 2011, reimbursement would be negative 1.5%.

Stakeholders encourage providers to lobby their representatives and senators to support the alternative.

A daunting tax

Another provision in the healthcare reform bills that continues to rile industry stakeholders: a tax on medical device manufacturers. No amendments to stop this provision have been proposed, but "it ain't over until the fat lady sings," says Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare.

"It's a matter of getting the right legislator or legislators who are willing to do it and who are in a position to do it," she said. "There's still a lot of communication going on about picking this part of one bill or picking that part of the other bill. Nothing is set in stone."

If industry stakeholders had to pick one provision over the other, they would pick the House's, which proposes a 2013 effective date.

A competitive nature

Industry stakeholders last week continued to chip away at its goal of getting 218 representatives to cosponsor H.R. 3790, a bill that would eliminate national competitive bidding. At press time last week, the bill, introduced by Rep. Kendrick Meet, D-Fla., had 124 co-sponsors.

Industry stakeholders concede that their chances of getting H.R. 3790 attached to a final healthcare reform bill are "highly unlikely," but there will be other bills, including a "doc fix" bill in late January or February.