Category: News

Medicare Eliminates Billing Option for Certain Manual Wheelchair Upgrades

January 26, 2017

CRT Stakeholders,

Last month the DME Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) issued a joint publication indicating that titanium wheelchair frames and patient weight capacity upgrades were not separately billable to Medicare.  A copy can be found here.  The article indicates these features were included in the initial fee schedules developed for manual wheelchairs.

This is the most recent example of policy changes and re-interpretations over the past few years implemented by CMS and its contractors that eliminate access.  This policy announcement prevents Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities from obtaining complex rehab technology (CRT), even if they are willing to pay for upgrades themselves.

To work to resolve this access problem, we have formed an NCART Work Group and developed an Issue Paper to share with policy makers and advocates.  A copy can be found here.  We have also reached out to CMS with our concerns and are pursuing other channels in the Congressional and advocacy arenas.

We will keep you updated on our progress and next steps that may be required.

Regards,
Don

Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

P.S. If you know of other CRT stakeholders who would like to receive these types of updates please have them sign up at the NCART website.

Medicare CRT Wheelchair Billing Announcements

December 28, 2016

Dear CRT Providers and Manufacturers,

We wanted to notify you of 3 significant Medicare billing announcements that will impact you in 2017:

1.) Continued Use of KU Modifier for Billing for Group 3 Power Wheelchair Accessories with Dates of Service from January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017- CMS has announced that “Section 16005 of the 21st Century Cures Act extends the PAMPA provisions of unadjusted fee schedules for Group 3 wheelchair accessories and cushions used with Group 3 complex rehabilitative power wheelchairs through June 30, 2017. To implement the extension, the 2016 KU fee schedule amounts have been updated by the 2017 0.7 percent covered item update and will be added to the 2017 DMEPOS fee schedule file. Suppliers should continue to use the KU modifier when billing for wheelchair accessories and seat and back cushions furnished in connection with Group 3 complex rehabilitative power wheelchairs with dates of service January 1, 2017 through June 30, 2017.” This is very good news and should prevent an interruption in the processing of these claims as we move into 2017.

2.) Payment Cut Recoupment for CRT Manual Wheelchair Accessories with Dates of Service from July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016- Per the 21st Century Cures Act, the July 1, 2016 fee schedule (with related payment cuts to non-competitive bid areas) was rescinded until the issuance of the January 1, 2017 fee schedule. The result of this is CRT providers will be able to recoup any July 1 payment cuts that were incurred for CRT manual wheelchair accessories (and other impacted DME claims such as Group 2 Power Wheelchairs) with dates of service from July 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016. CMS has announced that it “is currently working to implement this section and will be providing contractor instructions for re-processing the applicable claims. There is no action required for the suppliers at this time. Formal instructions will be issued in the near future.” Here again, good news that will allow providers to reprocess these claims to obtain additional payments once specific instructions are issued by CMS.

3.) Required Prior Authorization for 2 Group 3 CRT Power Wheelchair Base Codes (K0856 and K0861)- CMS has announced that they will be putting in place a Prior Authorization system for 2 CRT power wheelchair codes: K0856- power wheelchair, group 3 std., single power option, sling/solid seat/back, up to 300 pounds; and K0861- power wheelchair, group 3 std., multiple power option, sling/solid seat/back, up to 300 pounds. This is part of a national DME Prior Authorization initiative and these first codes will be implemented in 2 phases. The initial phase will be effective on March 19, 2017 in the 4 states of Illinois, New York, West Virginia, and Missouri. The second phase will be effective in the remaining states in July 2017. The CMS Fact Sheet can be found here and provides additional details, including the goal of an initial prior authorization response within 10 days. We will be working with CMS on the implementation of this new system.

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to get the year-end legislation passed in Congress to provide the payment relief in items 1.) and 2.). We will share additional information as it becomes available.

Regards,

Don
Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

Congress Passes Six-Month Delay in CRT Power Accessories Cuts

December 8, 2016

Good News for CRT Stakeholders.

Yesterday afternoon the Senate passed a 6-month delay of inappropriate Medicare payment cuts to CRT power wheelchair accessories as part of the 21st Century Cures Act. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week and it now goes to the President for signing into law.

The Cures Act also includes Competitive Bidding “rural relief” language that will retroactively rescind the broad DME July 1, 2016 Medicare cuts until January 1, 2017. This will allow CRT providers to recoup payment reductions to CRT manual accessories and other items provided from July 1 to December 31, 2016. The rescinded payment cuts will go back into effect on January 1, 2017.

As we have reported, the year-end challenge was to get our CRT legislation attached to a larger bill before Congress adjourned. Thankfully we were included in a year-end bill. Unfortunately, it is a short-term fix and does not expand the delay to CRT manual wheelchair accessories.

The reality is our Congressional supporters worked hard to get the best relief achievable within a difficult and limited year-end legislative environment. This 6-month period allows time for us to work with next year’s new Congress and Administration to pursue a permanent and more expansive fix through policy or legislation.

We will start 2017 with Congressional CRT support at its highest level ever. This provides a solid foundation to get a permanent stop to these inappropriate CRT accessories payment cuts and to establish a Separate CRT Benefit Category.

We sincerely thank all the Members of Congress for their support, particularly our CRT champions. Our champions include Senators Portman (R-OH), Casey (D-PA), Cochran (R-MS), and Schumer (D-NY) along with Representatives Zeldin (R-NY), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Crowley (D-NY), Brady (R-TX), Tiberi (R-OH), Kelly (R-PA), Nunes (R-CA), Price (R-GA), Loebsack (D-IA), Larson (D-CT), DeGette (D-CO).

Please email your Members and thank them. Let them know we look forward to working with them next year to get the needed permanent changes implemented to protect access for people with disabilities.

Finally, thanks to all the people and organizations who worked hard this year reaching out to Congress to secure their support. CRT stakeholders are proving that while it takes time to get the attention of Congress, if you have a good plan, good advocates, and polite persistence progress can be made.

More details will follow as we move ahead.

Regards,

Don

Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

House Passes 21st Century Cures Act

December 1, 2016

Good news! Last night the House of Representatives passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which includes our 6-month CRT power wheelchair accessories delay, by a vote of 392-26. This shows overwhelming support in the House and sends a strong message to the Senate.

The Senate will now take up the bill, likely next week. It may encounter some resistance there, but signs are positive for passage. In the meantime, reaching out to your Senators and encouraging them to vote yes will be helpful. The NCART Board of Directors will be in D.C. next week carrying that message.

We are halfway there. Let’s keep the momentum going and we will keep you updated.

Regards,

Don
Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

Extended Delay of CRT Accessories Cut in House Bill

November 28, 2016

CRT Stakeholders and Friends,

Language to extend the current delay in Medicare cuts to CRT power wheelchair accessories to July 1, 2017 has been added to legislation to be considered this week. The House of Representatives has included a 6-month extension in the “21st Century Cures Act”, a 996-page bill relating to medical/healthcare research, innovation, and treatment.

The Cures Act is expected to be voted on this week in the House of Representatives and once passed it will go to the Senate for their vote, likely next week. Should it be passed by both chambers, it would then go to the President for signing.

As we’ve reported, our challenge was to get attached to a larger bill. So it is good news we are in a bill that will be voted on in lame duck. The not-so-good news is it does not expand the delay to CRT manual wheelchair accessories.

The reality is, given the difficult and limited year-end legislative environment, our supporters worked hard to get the best relief achievable. The 6-month period kept the CRT legislation cost down and most importantly allows time for next year’s new Administration/Congress to pursue a permanent fix through policy or legislation.

The Cures Act also includes Competitive Bidding “rural relief” language that would retroactively rescind the broad DME July 1, 2016 Medicare cuts until January 1, 2017. Providers would be able to recoup CB payment reductions incurred for dates of service from July 1 to December 31, 2016. The rescinded payment cuts would go back into effect on January 1, 2017.

Getting a CRT delay included in the Cures Act is only the first step. Now the bill must be passed in the House and Senate, which is not an automatic process. We need to stay engaged as things move ahead.

We will provide further updates as we move through this week.

Regards,

Don
Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

Happy Thanksgiving

CRT Stakeholders and Friends,

As we prepare to celebrate this important holiday, we wanted to take a minute and wish you a sincere Happy Thanksgiving.

We are very thankful for all your support and assistance throughout the year collectively fighting to protect access to CRT.  It’s not easy finding time for advocacy, but your participation is critical and is paying off.

We also are very thankful to those Members of Congress, their staff, and other policy makers who are “getting the CRT message” and doing their part to help.

Of course we can’t pass up an opportunity to remind you to use www.protectmymobility.org to send your Members of Congress a Thanksgiving message to stop the January 1 cuts to CRT wheelchair accessories.

Please accept our warmest Happy Thanksgiving wishes and enjoy the time with your family and friends.

Regards,

Don

Donald E. Clayback

Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754

CRT Wheelchair Accessories Legislation Update

October 6, 2016

CRT Wheelchair Accessories Legislation Update

Can December 31 major Medicare payment cuts to Complex Rehab wheelchair accessories be stopped?  The solution rests in getting Congress to pass needed legislation before year-end.

While Congress is currently in recess for the elections, they return on November 14 for the “lame duck” session.  This year-end session will be a hectic time, but it’s the opportunity for passage of House bill H.R. 3229 and companion Senate bill S. 2196 to stop these cuts.

To help publicize the issue and get more folks to reach out to Congress an ad was placed in an Assistive Technology Insert published last Friday in USA Today in the cities of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, and New York City.  Share the ad with others in your circle of friends, associates, and organizations to get them to let Congress know this legislation MUST get passed this year.

The legislation also received a boost from a September 28 letter to Congress from the National Disability Leadership Alliance. Sincere thanks goes to them for their support.

As we look toward year-end we have a solid base of support from 145 Representatives on H. R. 3229 and 25 Senators on S. 2196.  The co-sponsor list can be found here.  But getting significant support is not the same as getting a bill passed.  We need to leverage our progress and get Congress to pass the legislation before they adjourn in December.

To make that happen Members of Congress must continue to hear from their constituents over the next several weeks as they discuss priorities and plans for the lame duck session.  The message to them is the Complex Rehab wheelchair accessories bill is “must pass” legislation.

With that in mind, please reconnect with your Members using the email here or by calling them through the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121.  If they are already a co-sponsor, thank them and emphasize the need to pass this legislation when they come back after elections.  If they are not signed on yet, make that request and stress the need for passage.

There’s a great deal at stake.  People with disabilities continued access to needed Complex Rehab wheelchairs and accessories depends on Congress passing H.R. 3229 and S. 2196 this year.  It’s up to us to help Congress do the right thing.

Thanks for taking the time to reconnect with your Members and being part of the year-end push.  Let us know if we can be of assistance and we’ll keep you posted as we move ahead.

Regards,

Don
Donald E. Clayback
Executive Director | NCART
Office 716-839-9728 | Cell 716-913-4754
dclayback@ncart.us |www.ncart.us

P.S. If you know of other CRT stakeholders who would like to receive these types of updates please have them sign up at the NCART website.

Why CRT Needs to Be a Separate Category

NCART_Blog_WhyCRTNeedstoBeaSeparateCategory

When it comes to healthcare, the last thing most people think of are billing categories.  Unfortunately, something as mundane as a billing category could be the deciding factor in obtaining appropriate equipment for those who use complex rehab technology (CRT). Currently, CRT is categorized in Medicare under the heading of “durable medical equipment”, or DME. Here’s why that’s a problem:

  • This category was originally created for an elderly population.

 

The designation of DME was first established in the 1960s to cover the type of equipment used by people as they advance in age—such as walkers, wheelchairs and bath safety equipment. CRT users are enrolled in the Medicare program not because of their age, but because of chronic and complex disabilities. Furthermore, their equipment is far more advanced technologically than what is typically used by an elderly patient. The conditions that apply to individuals utilizing CRT every day are not the same for DME users.

 

  • Obtaining CRT equipment is much more involved than obtaining DME

 

Typically, an elderly patient receives their DME products after a trip to the doctor and a trip to the DME supplier. Someone who uses CRT, however, must have carefully documented trips to the doctor, physical therapist or occupational therapist, an assistive technology professional (ATP), and a CRT provider. Additionally, the complexity of the equipment means the user will need ongoing training, support, and maintenance.

 

  • Medicare has more requirements for CRT

 

Obtaining DME is often as simple as visiting a medical equipment supplier with a doctor’s order in hand and leaving with equipment that same day.  There are far more requirements a person must go through to obtain CRT. Complex Rehab Technology is provided through an interdisciplinary team consisting of, at a minimum, a physician, a physical therapist or occupational therapist, and credentialed personnel from an accredited Complex Rehab Technology company.  The process of assessing, measuring, ordering, building, delivering, fitting, modifying, and training often takes three months or more.

 

  • Congress has changed other categories before

 

What we’re asking for is nothing new. In the past, Congress has recognized that other special medical needs don’t fall under the DME category. Orthotics and Prosthetics is one such example. It has its own separate set of rules for standards, accreditation and billing categories. We’re asking the same thing be done for CRT users.

 

Help NCART convince Congress that these changes need to be made.  Make a phone call to your Congressional representatives, write letters and emails to them, or the next time your representative gives a town hall meeting in your city attend it and speak up about CRT needs. Encourage your friends and family to do the same.  Together, we can make a difference!

Celebrate National Rehab Week by Advocating for Those Who Use Complex Rehab Technology

NCART_CelebrateNationalRehabWeekByAdvocating

The week of September 18-24 marks National Rehab Week, and NCART urges you to celebrate it by bringing attention to those who use Complex Rehab Technology. With your help, we can make sure that Washington hears the voices of those who most need this lifesaving equipment. Here are just a few ways you can do that:

Bring Attention to It at the Grassroots Level

Changes in our political landscape start at home. Those who are federal and state legislators now often start off as members of the city council or board of supervisors. Contact the mayor or board secretary and ask to be added to the next meeting’s agenda. Speak about the issues facing those who use CRT, and what problems the disabled community is facing on a locally. Don’t get discouraged if nothing happens right away. Often, you need to speak up regularly at local meetings before you start seeing change. Use the Tools for Telling the CRT Story on our website as a start.

Make Sure Your State Legislators Are Aware of the Issues

The next step is to contact your legislators at the state level. Many times, state-level coverage and funding dictate the availability of CRT products and supporting services. We’ve included links to the Medicaid policy in each state here. If you need help understanding what the issues are in your individual state, you can visit the Kaiser Family Foundation or contact NCART directly.

State legislators are usually more attentive than those at the federal level. Because they remain in the state where they are elected, they are more connected with their electoral base. Often, they will base their vote off of how many constituents they hear from on a given issue. Even if only one person speaks up to them, it will be enough to sway their vote!

Write to Your Federal Legislator

Just like with state legislators, a legislator at the federal level will sometimes vote according to what he or she hears from their constituents. Often, an overwhelming amount of letters on a given issue will be their deciding factor. The key is to keep letting our voices be heard! Like at the grassroots level, we need to be patient and continue to speak up until change happens.

At NCART, we are dedicated to helping those who use CRT have their voices heard and ensuring that they have access to the equipment they need. Join us this September 18-24 in celebrating National Rehab Week by kicking off grassroots, state and national efforts to make sure the CRT story is heard!

Problems with Cost Plus Payment in CRT

United States Coins.

United States Coins.

Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) products are specialized and customized to fit each individual’s needs. These products are provided to individuals with significant disabilities in order to address their medical and functional needs.

When determining the cost of CRT products, the cost of the product, cost of the service, delivery and support system must be recognized. The cost of the product itself is only about half of the actual cost of providing the equipment. CRT studies have found that for every dollar of funding, product cost is approximately 49 cents and service cost is approximately 46 cents. To make sure that people with disabilities are able to access the CRT equipment they need, a funding system must incorporate the total costs of providing the product and the supporting services. Because of these operational and financial challenges, there are only a limited number of companies that will supply CRT and that number is decreasing.

Problems with Cost Plus Payment Methodology

  1. Unless the Cost Plus methodology incorporates all costs of products and services with an appropriate multiplier, it does not provide appropriate payment rates.
  2. A Cost Plus system is time consuming for the payer. Since CRT orders are so complex, there may be 20 to 30 invoice line items to review on each claim. This creates additional administrative burdens.
  3. A Cost Plus system penalizes CRT suppliers and rewards companies that don’t. Because dedicated suppliers buy more products, they will typically have a lower product cost compared to the company that buys fewer products. The result of this is a supplier getting paid less than a company that has made a smaller investment.
  4. A Cost Plus system reduces the supplier’s desire to negotiate better acquisition costs.

Alternative Payment Methodologies  

  1. Use published Medicare Fee Schedule to ensure that the most current fee schedules are in place.
  2. Use Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing (MSRP) to decrease the likelihood that a supplier will provide a low quality product.
  3. Use a combination of Medicare Fee Schedule and MSRP. Use the Medicare Fee Schedule for coded items and MSRP for non-coded items.

There are a number of problems with applying the Cost Plus payment methodology to CRT. The National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART) works hard to make sure that individuals with disabilities have access to CRT products and services. Contact us to find out how you can help!