Industry shoots for a delay

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

WASHINGTON - Instead of repealing the provision to eliminate the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs, industry stakeholders are working with lawmakers to delay it.

"We've been told that our repeal is not going to happen prior to implementation due to the current make-up of Congress," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. "The Democrats aren't willing to change anything in the healthcare reform bill."

The provision eliminates the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs, but not complex power wheelchairs, staring Jan. 1, 2011.

Stakeholders seek to delay the provision anywhere from to six months to three years.

Johnson says the industry has "a couple of different score requests" into the CBO to determine how much it would cost to delay the provision for different lengths of time.

"Once we have scores, we can determine what's the most palatable option, recognizing that we'd have to reduce the fee schedule based on the cost to secure that delay," he said. "We're told the delay would have to be budget neutral."

It may be money well spent, Johnson said.

"It would allow the industry more time to prepare," he said. "There will be significant changes that will be required, like setting up IT systems to bill every month. Certain segments of the industry are familiar with renting equipment but more than 90% of standard power wheelchairs are purchased in the first month."

The industry's efforts were dealt somewhat of a blow in May, when Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., who has supported its efforts to eliminate, amend or delay the provision, was defeated by Rep. Joe Sestak in the Democratic primary.

"(Specter) will be in office through the end of this year and he will continue to be an industry champion," Johnson said.