MS Society prioritizes complex rehab bills

Friday, March 21, 2014

WASHINGTON – The high-profile National Multiple Sclerosis Society has made passing legislation to create a separate benefit for complex rehab one of its legislative priorities for 2014.

Support from the society, which has 50 state chapters and spent $122.1 million on programs and services in 2012, will go a long way toward raising awareness of the importance of complex rehab, said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART.

“Because of the progression of the disease, some people with MS don’t require any assistance, but some require a high level of assistance, like a CRT wheelchair,” he said. “Because of that and their desire to focus on that population, they decided to take on our legislation as one of their priorities.”

During its March 10-12 Public Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., the society hosted a 90-minute discussion of complex rehab with panelists Alex Bennewith, vice president of government relations at the United Spinal Association; Clayback; Jennifer Digmann, MS activist and complex power wheelchair user; and Laura Weidner, director of federal government relations at the society.

Bennewith told attendees that complex rehab needs its own benefit under Medicare because it requires a higher level of care.

"We want people with significant disabilities to have home evaluations with physical therapists, occupational therapists, rehab tech professionals and physicians to be able to get the chairs that work best for them,” she said. “We don't want people to have pressure sores, be stuck in bed, or, worst case scenario, hospitalized, when they can be out working, going to school and contributing to and participating in society."

Also as part of the conference, 350 attendees lobbied for the legislation on Capitol Hill. They’re now back at their local chapters, continuing the push.

Currently, H.R. 942 and S. 948 have 88 and nine co-sponsors, respectively.