Improving Access to “Complex Rehabilitative Equipment” for Americans with Disabilities

One of the reasons why our country is the greatest country in the world is our recognition of the need to accommodate our most vulnerable citizens. Self-sufficiency and independence are values we all cherish as Americans. When our country was founded, a nation was envisioned in which anyone could succeed with enough hard work. This is a major reason to ensure that Americans with disabilities have the resources they need to live independently and happily.

Congress honored this commitment in 1990 when it passed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against disabled Americans in so many aspects of life so that they have a fair opportunity to succeed. We can and must do more.

Under the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) of 2008, complex rehabilitation technology devices would be excluded from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Competitive Bidding Program. Excluded devices include power wheelchairs and the related accessories, which are the fundamental parts of the products that make them useful and beneficial to people with progressed disabilities — such as recline/tilt systems, specialty controls and seat/back cushions. In November 2014, CMS issued a ruling contrary to MIPPA, which stated that starting in January 2016, accessories that are used on complex rehabilitative wheelchairs will no longer be part of the fixed fee schedule, but would be subject to competitive bidding pricing, which unfortunately has the practical effect of decreasing access to the individually configured wheelchairs and accessories relied on by adults and children with disabilities. In December 2015, Congress passed the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (S.2425), which provided a one year delay in the application of Medicare competitive bid pricing for complex rehab power wheelchairs and accessories. Now, Congress must act again before the end of this year to ensure that a more permanent fix is granted.

Last year, I introduced legislation in the House, H.R. 3229, to address this very time sensitive issue, which now has over 135 bipartisan cosponsors as well as a Senate companion bill. My bill ensures that those with disabilities can access the complex rehabilitative equipment they require to meet their medical needs and to function at the highest level possible. In an effort to advance this legislation, I testified in support of my bill at a House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee hearing on June 8, 2016. Both the House and Senate must pass this legislation in 2016 to protect Americans dealing with the challenges from disabilities such as ALS, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, and many other debilitating illnesses.

My bill is just one effort to help Americans with disabilities attain the self-sufficiency and independence we all cherish. We must continue to provide support and care to help the many vulnerable adults and children living with disabilities.

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