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'Dear Colleague' letter pressures CMS on accessories

'Dear Colleague' letter pressures CMS on accessories ‘They know it’s on its way,’ Bachenheimer says

WASHINGTON - One hundred members of the House of Representatives signed a letter asking CMS to reverse its decision to apply competitive bid pricing to complex rehab wheelchair accessories.

“We're very happy with the response that we've gotten,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART. “I think the fact that we have 100 signatures sends a very strong statement from members of Congress—they understand the issue and they support our concerns.”

Chief among those concerns: Stakeholders say the change, scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, could result in payment cuts ranging from 20% to 50% for complex rehab wheelchair accessories.

The signatures were hard fought and won, Clayback says, especially when you consider a recent two-week break for Easter.

“Every one of those signatures has a personal story behind it,” he said. “The vast majority of those signatures came from multiple contact (points). In many cases, it was probably two or three emails and then two or three phone calls.”

Stakeholders with established relationships with their representatives had an easier time getting in touch with and making their case, says Cara Bachenheimer.

“It's tougher if you start from scratch,” said Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. “We had a higher success rate where we had relationships with offices—no question—but it's also a good way to begin a relationship if you don't have one.”

The letter shouldn't come as a surprise to CMS. It wasn't uncommon for congressional offices to ask the agency about the new policy after being approached to sign the letter, stakeholders say.

“I think they know it's on its way,” said Bachenheimer. “It's difficult to keep things (a secret) and that's fine.”

Once the letter is sent, CMS will have 30 days to respond.


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