'No one's happy'
Providers of standard and complex power wheelchairs weren't the hardest hit by national competitive bidding (providers of mail-order diabetic supplies won that honor), but, they argue, they had the most to lose.
Two years ago, CMS cut reimbursement for power wheelchairs by 27% on average. As part of Round 1 of competitive bidding, which kicks off July 1, the agency will cut reimbursement on average by 21% for standard power wheelchairs and 15% for complex power wheelchairs in 10 competitive bidding areas (CBAs).
"For K0823 (the most commonly prescribed standard power wheelchair), basically, it's a $1,000 dip," said Georgie Blackburn, vice president of government relations and legislative affairs for Blackburns, a winning bidder in the Pittsburgh CBA. "It's going to have an impact. Even among winning bidders-No one's happy."
Most providers of power wheelchairs have so feared competitive bidding's impact on reimbursement and quality of care that they convinced Rep. Tom Allen, D-Maine, to introduce a bill in May 2007 that would exclude complex power wheelchairs from the program. The bill, H.R. 2231, has 37 co-sponsors.
While most winning bidders were mum on how they would provide power wheelchairs at the new prices, providers who aren't in Round 1 speculate they'll have to reduce services to make ends meet.
"I think they're going to have to pull out every inch of service," said Jim Travis, president of Buffalo Wheelchair in West Seneca, N.Y. "That means no odd-hour deliveries. No loaners to hospitals when chairs break down. There has to be 100 different services that they're going to have a hard time providing."
Trying to find a silver lining, at least one winning provider in the Charlotte CBA took comfort that his cuts were only 10% on average for complex power wheelchairs.
"We were happy to see we were below 15%," said Will Dolan, managing director of Chair & Equipment Rental & Sales in Charlotte, N.C. "We're going to accept the contract. We have no choice." HME