PWC amendment creates confusion

Saturday, December 31, 2005

YARMOUTH, Maine - A political effort to halt CMS's new rule for power mobility devices hardly enjoys unanimous support within the rehab industry. The reason: It would cause too much confusion, say some industry sources.
The interim final rule (IFR), which went into effect Oct. 25, replaces CMNs with prescriptions and physician notes. It also requires physicians to conduct face-to-face examinations and provide suppliers with documentation within 30 days of exams.
But an amendment supported by Pride Mobility Products and Invacare would halt the transition until at least April 1, 2006. Supporters believe the amendment, currently working its way through Congress, gives the industry more of a say in the process and CMS more time to educate physicians.
Going back to CMNs, however, only to return to new requirements in the spring, would be an "administrative nightmare"--not to mention costly, said Nancy Lansing, director of marketing for the West Hartford, Conn.-based Connecticut Rehab.
"We're proceeding with (CMS's IFR) as it's now written," she said. "If you wait until they sort it out, you're potentially out of compliance. By implementing the process now, the very worst we'll have to do is tweak it."
By late December, both the House of Representatives and the Senate had approved the appropriations bill that includes the amendment. The president was expected to sign the bill as soon as Dec. 23.
It's anyone's guess what the new IFR will look like or how much time CMS will have to fine-tune it. The amendment advises the agency to re-issue the rule by Jan. 1, 2006, and provide 45-day comment and transition periods.
With 2006 fast approaching, however, the re-issue date could be bumped back, said Seth Johnson, director of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.
The potential confusion motivated the Washington-based National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART) to reverse its position on the rule in November. NCART supported a delay, but after the rule was implemented, it didn't make it a priority, said Sharon Hildebrandt, executive director.
"The procedures are in place; the implementation is ongoing," she said. "To stop it now would only lead to more confusion. But that doesn't mean we don't think there aren't problems with the rule's documentation requirements."
Scott Scobey, president of Low County Mobility in Beaufort, S.C., said halting the IFR would only "delay the inevitable."
"I'm trying to wade through the rule like everybody else, but we're putting together a plan on how to deal with it," he said.