Senator comes to industry's defense

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators in late October flexed their muscles in what some believe to be a better-late-than-never attempt to delay Medicare's plan to replace the CMN for power wheelchairs with a doctor's prescription.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., introduced an amendment just days after the plan's Oct. 25 implementation date that would require CMS to re-issue a plan by Jan. 1, 2006. It would then require the agency to hold 45-day comment and transition periods, and implement the rule no sooner than April 1, 2006. In a voice vote in late October, the Senate passed the amendment, which is attached to H.R. 3010, the appropriations bill for the health and human services, labor and education departments.
The bill now needs approval by the House of Representatives and a signature from the president--two steps that the industry believes will take place seamlessly before Thanksgiving. "The chances of this provision sticking in the final version of the bill is 98% to 99%," said Seth Johnson, director of government affairs for Pride Mobility.
The rehab industry began voicing its disapproval of CMS's plan, especially new documentation requirements, soon after it was published in the Federal Register in late August. Providers doubted they would be able to get the proper documentation from doctors. They also bristled at the rule's tight timeline. Stakeholders voiced their concerns en masse by encouraging their legislators to contact CMS, and more than 50 did.
The Power Mobility Coalition even took CMS to court. During an Oct. 25 hearing, however, it appeared the judge would ultimately fail to rule in the PMC's favor.
Despite all these efforts, the rehab industry watched CMS delay implementing new codes and a local coverage determination in mid-October but stay the course on the rule. At the end of the day, however, the rehab industry's efforts laid the groundwork for this development, said Cara Bachenheimer, vice president of government relations for Invacare.
"There's a new awareness now that there are people looking over [CMS's] shoulders," she said. "That what they do has to make sense, and most importantly, ensures beneficiaries have access."