EAST AMHERST, N.Y. (May 1, 2017)—Over 150 Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) stakeholders from across the country came together at the 2017 National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference April 26 and 27 in Arlington, Virginia. The theme of the conference was protecting access to CRT for people with disabilities who depend on it to manage their medical needs, minimize their health care costs and maximize their independence.
This annual conference is a partnership of the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology (NCART) and the National Registry of Rehabilitation Technology Suppliers (NRRTS). The event brings CRT stakeholders together in one place for high value education, networking and advocacy focused on taking the CRT access message directly to members of Congress in Washington, D.C.
Attendees represented all sectors of the CRT community. That included providers, manufacturers, consumers and consumer organizations, clinicians and clinical organizations, family and caregivers, researchers, and other advocates from a total of 35 states. 30 attendees were CRT wheelchair users.
Capitol Hill Day April 27 produced visits to 245 Congressional offices. Initial reports are positive and indicate strong Congressional awareness and support for the pending CRT legislation. Advocates will now move to follow up activities during the upcoming weeks. For CRT stakeholders unable to attend the conference, they can email and call their members of Congress using the links and information at protectmymobility.org.
The first day of the conference included, "Healthcare Policy—What's in the Air?" a panel presentation providing an overview of the issues, options, and politics in Washington regarding health care policy. Attendees heard directly from D.C. legislative veterans from the National Health Council and Washington Council Ernst & Young about the dynamics in play as the president and Congress look to improve health care at a national and state level.
A highlight of that day’s “Capitol Hill Preparation” session was the opening speech from Steve Saling, a nationally recognized champion for accessible residential environments and assistive technology for people with disabilities. Saling was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease, in 2006 and uses a CRT power wheelchair and a speech-generating computer. He formed The ALS Residence Initiative (ALSRI), an advocacy and fundraising organization based on the motto “Until medicine finds an answer, technology is the cure”.
Saling shared his powerful personal story and encouraged conference attendees to share their CRT stories with Congress to aggressively protect access. A video of his speech can be found here.
Capitol Hill Day April 27 centered around CRT stakeholders taking the critical CRT access message directly to members of Congress. The CRT message was twofold:
First and foremost, there is an urgent need to cosponsor and pass the “Protecting Beneficiary Access to Complex Rehab Technology Act of 2017” (H.R. 1361 and S. 486). This legislation must be passed by June 30 to stop major July 1 Medicare payment cuts to CRT wheelchair accessories that would result from Medicare inappropriately applying Competitive Bidding Program information. These cuts must be stopped to ensure continued access for the people with significant disabilities who depend on this specialized equipment.
The second request was to cosponsor and pass the “Ensuring Access to Quality Complex Rehab Technology Act” (H.R. 750). This bill will create a Separate Benefit Category for CRT within Medicare and make needed changes in policies and safeguards.
Both these bills enjoyed broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate in 2016 and that support continues in 2017.
NCART Executive Director Don Clayback said, “Thanks to everyone who came to Washington to personally visit their members of Congress, especially the consumers and clinicians who made the trip. We have been making significant progress on moving our CRT legislation ahead in 2015 and 2016 and these Washington activities played a major role. Nothing sends a stronger message than a visit to their D.C. offices and with good follow up we’ll be securing additional cosponsors and get these bills passed.”
Weesie Walker, NRRTS executive director, stated, “This type of event has never been more important given all that’s going on in the CRT world. Particularly the push to get critical legislation passed to stop the major July 1 Medicare cuts to CRT Wheelchair Accessories and to create a Separate Benefit Category for CRT within the Medicare program. We want this National CRT Leadership and Advocacy Conference to continue to serve as a catalyst for more effective information sharing, collaboration and advocacy.”
Visit ncart.us and nrrts.org for more information.