PWC amendment inches forward

Sunday, December 18, 2005

WASHINGTON - The House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly approved an appropriations bill that includes an amendment halting CMS's new power mobility rule, which replaced CMNs with prescriptions and physician notes.

Representatives voted 215 to 213 to pass the bill, which sets spending for the health and human services and labor departments. The House's approval comes after representatives decided to send it back to a Conference Committee earlier this month.

The bill passed on Wednesday differs little from the bill the House rejected just before Thanksgiving. One difference: Republican leaders were able to restore $90 million to pay for Medicare coverage for erectile dysfunction drugs.

It will likely be another uphill battle in the Senate, however, where Cara Bachenheimer, vice president of government relations for Elyria, Ohio-based Invacare, expects a "tight vote."

"It has nothing to do with the (PWC amendment), but it's a controversial package because of funding for particular programs," she said. "It doesn't have enough money in it for some programs and too much for others, so it's not a sure thing by any means."

The Senate was scheduled to take up the bill for a final vote late last week. The president must also sign the bill.

The amendment advises CMS to re-issue its interim final rule (IFR) for power wheelchairs and scooters on Jan. 1, 2006. It also advises the agency to hold 45-day comment and transition periods and implement the rule no sooner than April 1, 2006.

CMS's IFR, which went into effect Oct. 25, also requires physicians to conduct face-to-face examinations and provide suppliers with documentation within 30 days.