Relief for accessories inches forward

End goal: Getting CMS to apply the same payment policy to complex rehab manual wheelchairs as complex rehab power wheelchairs
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Friday, October 30, 2020

WASHINGTON – CMS took the next step in permanently exempting complex rehab manual wheelchairs and accessories from Medicare’s competitive bidding program in a proposed rule published on Oct 27. 

Congress late last year passed a bill telling CMS to do just that, and the proposed rule “takes those components and puts them into the statutes and regulations around competitive bidding,” says Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. 

“It was the expected next step, in terms of finishing the process of a permanent exemption,” he said. “But we still have one last step to go.” 

Unlike for complex rehab power wheelchairs, CMS still applies bid-related pricing for accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs. Thanks to the bill passed late last year, however, that practice is on hold for 18 months until July 1, 2021. 

Stakeholders and their champions in Congress are using the break to get CMS to permanently stop that practice. Most recently in late September, champions led a sign-on letter in the House of Representatives to apply pressure on the agency. 

“Congress did their job (with the bill) and when we went back to them and asked them to help us amplify our request, they stepped up again and got 41 signatures on the letter,” Clayback said. 

CMS has not applied bid-related pricing for accessories for complex rehab power wheelchairs, since July 1, 2017, but it has for complex rehab manual wheelchairs since Jan. 1, 2016. 

“We just need CMS to make a small policy change to ensure that people with disabilities are treated equally, whether they use a complex power wheelchair or a complex manual wheelchair,” Clayback said.