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Complex rehab accessories: Lawmakers extend deadline for 'Dear Colleague' letter

Complex rehab accessories: Lawmakers extend deadline for 'Dear Colleague' letter

WASHINGTON - Members of the House of Representatives will now have until April 15 to sign a “Dear Colleague” letter asking CMS not to apply competitive bid pricing to complex rehab wheelchair accessories.

So far, 27 representatives have signed the letter, authored by six representatives on the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means committees.

“It's been a pretty hectic week on the Hill with budget issues and the 'doc-fix' bill,” explained Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “It's been difficult to nail down health staffers.”

The change, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, could result in payment cuts ranging from 20% to 50% for complex rehab wheelchair accessories, stakeholders say.

A two-week Easter recess, which began Thursday for the House, has made it even more difficult for stakeholders to reach their representatives to sign the letter.

“Many of the lead sponsors' colleagues have signed on but there's even more who have expressed interest or are currently reviewing the letter,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility. “If the original Friday noon deadline remained, we would have missed quite a few additional signers.”

The goal is to collect between 75 and 100 signatures, said Johnson.

Once the letter is sent to CMS, Don Clayback, executive director of NCART, is optimistic that the agency will reverse its stance.

“The letter is bi-partisan, there's representation from both House committees that oversee Medicare, and I think the argument is very straightforward,” said Clayback, referencing 2008 legislation exempting complex power wheelchairs from competitive bidding.

If CMS doesn't reconsider its plans, Clayback and Bachenheimer say a clarification could be tucked into H.R. 1516, a bill to create a separate benefit for complex rehab, as it moves forward in the House.

“That's one possibility, definitely,” said Bachenheimer. “We don't want to exclude anything else that comes along, potentially sooner.”

Once CMS receives the letter, it will have 30 days to respond.


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