NCART keeps carve out alive

Saturday, March 31, 2007

WASHINGTON - With Democrats in power, NCART now seeks a legislator with that party affiliation to join Rep. Ron Lewis, R-Ky., in re-introducing a bill that would carve out complex rehab from national competitive bidding (NCB).
The organization already has a verbal commitment from Lewis, a member of the Ways and Means Committee. NCART wants both parties represented, however, to increase its chances of getting the bill passed, officials say.
The organization has "a couple of good leads" for a Democrat to introduce the bill alongside Lewis, Sharon Hildebrandt, NCART's executive director, said in late February.
Supporters of the bill argue that complex rehab products are evaluated, fitted, configured, adjusted or programmed to meet unique needs, making them inappropriate for NCB. Legislators "seem to get it," Hildebrandt said.
"The only push-back we've gotten is the new pay-as-you-go rule adopted by the House of Representatives," she said.
Legislators have reminded NCART that, as part of PAYGO, any increase in entitlement benefits has to be paid for by a new revenue source or by an equivalent cut in other benefits.
The Congressional Budget Office has yet to determine how much the bill would cost. NCART commissioned Don Moran, a former CBO director, to "score" the bill, and he came up with a five-year cost of $46 million, Hildebrandt said.
Simon Margolis, an NCART executive committee member, said last year's bill "built a little momentum," and 2007's "a good year to get the bill passed." CMS plans to kick off competitive bidding in 10 cities some time this year.
"With the way competitive bidding has been handled, it's been a very confusing time," said Margolis, NRRTS's executive director. "The rehab technology groups have to stay the course and not get lost in all of this. If we get this carve out, we'll all be OK."