Reporter's notebook: Long view, body cams and deadlines

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Monday, June 29, 2020

Taking a short and long view

While there are “still some fires to put out,” complex rehab stakeholders are shifting part of their focus on longer-term issues related to the coronavirus pandemic, says Don Clayback.

“There are real practical challenges that we’re encountering, whether you’re a customer, a clinician, a supplier or a manufacturer,” said Clayback, executive director of NCART, during a May 14 “CRT Industry and COVID-19 Update” sponsored by NCART, NRRTS, U.S. Rehab and The Clinician Task Force. “There are real issues related to physical access, safety, operations, financials. We’re going to be dealing with this for a while.”

At the top of the list of longer-term issues are how to make the expansion in telehealth services for clinicians, including occupational therapists and physical therapists, permanent (see related story); and staving off reimbursement cuts by state Medicaid programs that will likely be under pressure to tighten their budgets.

Telehealth and body cams

Speaking of telehealth, Mark Schmeler of the University of Pittsburgh envisions “a whole new market out there now for telehealth and equipment” in the wake of CMS expanding these services during the pandemic.

“We’re kind of piecing things together and have been with USB and speakers and cameras, but there is stuff out there that’s ready to go more for tele-home care,” said Schmeler, associate professor and vice chairman for education and training in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology. “But I’m imagining pinch meters, dynamometers and force gauges that we may be using in the future that automatically connect to the computer. I think body cams is a big area. We’ve done some investigations. It helps to move around, so the clinical person is seeing a bird’s eye.”

Sticking to deadlines

On a positive note, stakeholders are pleased to see CMS sticking with a July deadline for implementing the suspension of competitive bidding pricing for accessories for complex rehab manual wheelchairs. The agency will adjust payments for claims submitted on or after July 6, 2020, through June 30, 2021.

“We were concerned it might get pushed back (due to the pandemic),” Clayback said.

On or after July 6, providers will also be able to adjust previously paid claims with dates of service on or after Jan. 1, 2020, but they will need to “take specific action to get that increase in payment,” says Rita Stanley.

“CMS hasn’t announced that yet, but there is a (website) address* that CMS has indicated to go to to get that information as soon as it is made available,” said Stanley, vice president of government relations for Sunrise Medical.

www.cms.gov/center/provider-type/Durable-Medical-Equipment-DME-Center