'Now's the time' for complex rehab bill

Friday, March 8, 2013

WASHINGTON – In a Congress often divided by party lines, bipartisan support right out of the gate for a new bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab may be just what it needs to succeed, stakeholders say. 

Reps. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y., and Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., introduced H.R. 942, the Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehabilitation Technology Act, on March 6. Crowley had introduced a previous version of the bill last April. 

“If things are going to happen with this bill, now’s the time, with this kind of support,” said Simon Margolis, executive director of NRRTS. “It’s going to be a lot easier to get Republicans to sign onto the bill because we have a Republican as one of the leads.”

The bill would carve out complex rehab from the DME benefit, put standards in place to ensure qualified professionals provide the equipment and permanently exempt it from competitive bidding. The bill would also remove a restriction that allows coverage for complex rehab only for use "in the home."

With Republicans in control of the House of Representatives, Sensenbrenner’s support is key. Additionally, he’s a longtime advocate for people with disabilities, stakeholders say.

“As someone who has been a leader in the past, fighting for the rights of the disabled, I want to ensure that all Americans have full access to the best tools available, giving them the ability to live each day to the fullest,” stated Sensenbrenner in a release. 

With H.R. 942 on the books, stakeholders will now quickly work to get renewed support from the 37 representatives who co-sponsored last year’s bill. They plan to promote the bill on the Hill at the upcoming National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference in Washington, D.C., April 9-11. They also plan to hold a national call-in day.

“The language hasn’t changed since last year, so it shouldn’t be a problem to get them to sign on again,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. 

But stakeholders know they’ll likely need more than 37 co-sponsors—not to mention a Senate companion bill—before H.R. 942 has any hopes of being attached to a larger piece of legislation. 

“We need to get the bill queued up and ready to go,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “It’s hard to predict what it will be attached to, but with the current budget concerns, healthcare continues to come up. We’ll get more co-signers and look for our opportunity.”