NCART intensifies push for competitive bidding carve out

Sunday, September 9, 2007

WASHINGTON - NCART plans to give 15 to 20 consumers of complex rehab equipment center stage at a Sept. 25 press event on Capitol Hill to help "raise the visibility" of its carve-out bill.

"We need to let members of Congress know that this is a critical piece of legislation that needs to be passed this year," said Sharon Hildebrandt, executive director of NCART. "This will allow them to see, with their own eyes, how important this equipment is to the people who use it."

The carve-out bill, H.R. 2231, seeks to exclude complex rehab from national competitive bidding. Currently, the bill, sponsored by Reps. Tom Allen, D-Maine, and Ron Lewis, R-Ky., has 18 co-sponsors.

NCART hopes to have a similar bill introduced in the Senate this month. With bills in both the House of Representatives and Senate, sponsors can seek to attach it to a larger bill.

CMS plans to kick off competitive bidding July 1, 2008.

One week before the event, NCART plans to send invitations to members of Congress, including those sitting on the powerful Senate Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means committees, and members of the press, including major newspapers. Last month, the organization received some traction in The Hill, a congressional newspaper that ran an editorial by consumer Tom Connors.

At the event, consumers will talk about using complex rehab equipment in their daily lives. They will also talk about why CMS shouldn't competitively bid the equipment.

"We're anxious for this to happen," said Paul Bergantino, an NCART board member and president of ATG Rehab in Newington, Conn. "We feel consumers are the ones who are the most appropriate to deliver this message, and it's a message that hasn't been heard by some regulators, because if it were, complex rehab wouldn't be in competitive bidding."

Additionally, Allen and Lewis will speak at the event, Hildebrandt said.

NCART has named the week of Sept. 24 "Rehab Exemption Week." During that week, the organization asks providers, manufacturers and consumers to call or fax their representatives in Washington, D.C., about the importance of the carve-out bill.