First-month purchase option

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

WASHINGTON - Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., are circulating a Dear Colleague letter to support the industry's efforts to delay a provision that eliminates the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs Jan. 1.

Stakeholders also expected to have a Dear Colleague letter circulated in the Senate this month.

"This gives us a good opportunity to quantify the level of support in Congress," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

The industry seeks to delay the provision for one year in exchange for a 1% reduction in the consumer price index-urban update (CPI-U).

In addition to members of Congress, the industry's efforts have received support from numerous consumer groups, most recently the American Association of People With Disabilities.

Stakeholders hope this support will carry some weight when they approach members of key committees in the House and Senate about including the delay in one of the Medicare-related bills that are expected to move through Congress before the end of the year.

"We want to make sure we're in the best possible position to catch that train as it moves quickly through in the fall," Johnson said.

If the provision is implemented on Jan. 1, however, there's a lot the industry still doesn't know. The biggest thing on the minds of providers: If a beneficiary doesn't need his wheelchair after, say, five months into the 13-month capped rental period, and a provider cleans the chair and puts it back out, does a new rental period start?

"That's the way traditional rentals of DME work, and I think that's the best-case scenario," Johnson said. "But there are a lot of unknowns right now. There are a lot of issues--what happens when there is a break in service, what kind of documentation will be required? We don't know."