Stakeholders to lawmakers: ‘Make complex rehab bill a priority’

Friday, April 24, 2015

WASHINGTON – Complex rehab stakeholders convened on Capitol Hill this week to ask lawmakers to co-sponsor bills to create a separate benefit category for complex rehab—and to pass them.

More than 190 complex rehab providers, manufacturers and consumers attended the National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference, held April 21-23 at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City Hotel in Arlington, Va. During the last day of the conference, stakeholders met with a record 260 congressional offices to drum up support for the bills, H.R. 1516 and S. 1013.

“Our request isn’t just, ‘Can you sign on?’ it’s, ‘Can you make this a priority today and can you talk to your colleagues and have them make this a priority?’” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. 

The biggest advantage stakeholders had this year versus last: numbers. 

Last year’s bills in the House and Senate drew 168 and 22 co-sponsors, respectively.

“They were very supportive about re-signing onto the legislation,” said Clayback. “And there were at least two or three offices that didn’t sign on last year that committed to signing on this year—right out of the gate.”

Thanks to prior meetings and outreach efforts, stakeholders say they didn’t have to spend a great deal of time—if any—educating lawmakers and health staff about the bill or complex rehab technology. 

“One thing that I thought was very subtle but encouraging, was (the office) immediately knew the number S. 1013,” said Dick Fuller, president of Richard Fuller Consulting, who met with Sen. Claire McCaskill’s, D-Mo., office.  

Stakeholders also asked House members to keep the pressure on CMS to reverse its plan to apply competitive bidding pricing to complex rehab wheelchair accessories on Jan. 1. Earlier this month, 100 representatives signed and sent a “Dear Colleague” letter to CMS, doing just that. 

While getting the bills passed remains a top priority, during the conference, stakeholders highlighted several other legislative initiatives, including addressing the nationwide rollout of competitive bid pricing, slated for Jan. 1; expanding CMS’s power mobility device (PMD) demo nationwide; and reintroducing a bill that would reform the Medicare audit process for DME claims.

“That’s the same bill that was introduced last year by Rep. Renee Ellmers,” said Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “We expect it to get introduced in the House fairly shortly.”