NCART lobbies to carve out complex rehab

Sunday, April 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - NCART is in a race against time. The coalition, still stunned that CMS included complex rehab in the first round of national competitive bidding, must get a bill exempting the product category introduced and passed by year's end, say industry sources.

NCART expects to have a bi-partisan bill introduced in the next few weeks. It will host a congressional fly-in May 9-10 in Washington, D.C., to lobby legislators to co-sign the bill.

"I just hope people aren't too shell shocked," said Sharon Hildebrandt, NCART's executive director. "This is their chance to get an exemption before the bids are released."

CMS plans to begin accepting bids in late April. It will select winning providers in December.

In lobbying legislators to support the bill, NCART members plan to make several arguments. First, that providers evaluate, fit, configure, adjust or program complex rehab products to meet unique needs, making them inappropriate for competitive bidding. Second, CMS has already tightened documentation requirements and reduced pricing for complex rehab products.

"If the goal of competitive bidding is to improve quality and reduce costs--CMS did that last year," said Don Clayback, NCART's secretary/treasurer. "We've been through this already."

This year's fly-in won't feature a rehab technology fair. NCART members will focus on what's likely to be more than 100 meetings with legislators, Hildebrandt said.

Providers like Mike Seidel, who can't attend the fly-in, plan to host site visits with representatives. They've also asked consumers and disability organizations to contact representatives.

"I'm trying to lobby in my own little world," said Seidel, an office manager for National Seating & Mobility and NRRTS's president. "If everyone had done this in the first place, we might not be in this position."

NRRTS's Executive Director Simon Margolis called the rehab carve-out bill a "crap shoot," but providers have no other option, he said.

"There's nothing else we can do," Margolis said. "If we don't, we're going to find our worst nightmare sitting next to us at the rehab clinic--the people who said, 'No problem, we'll bid on complex rehab.'"

NCART collected seven co-sponsors for last year's rehab carve-out bill.