Last summer, Congress voted to override President Bush's veto and consequently the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (H.R. 6331) became law.
A main focus of the bill was to prevent the 10.6 percent pay cut to doctors—now replaced with a 0.5 percent update for the remainder of 2008—but it also enacted several other key provisions important to people living with MS, such as:
- An 18-month delay of the Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Competitive Bidding Program;
- An 18-month extension of the outpatient rehabilitation therapy caps exceptions process until December 31, 2009; and,
- Low-income programs that will help more people with Medicare living below or just above the poverty level ($867 per month for an individual) get help with their drug costs and medical bills.
More specifically, the bill also: delays Round 2 of the Competitive Bidding Program until 2011 in order to allow stakeholders to address the impact and efficiency of Round 1; exempts complex rehabilitation wheelchairs from the competitive bidding program in order to protect access to and quality of these devices; and, establishes a competitive bidding ombudsman at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to monitor inquiries and concerns.
Medicare beneficiaries may now use any Medicare-approved supplier for DME. Beneficiaries in the 10 competitive bidding areas who changed suppliers when the new program began on July 1 may keep their current supplier, return to previous supplier, or find a new one. The original DME payment rates in effect prior to July 1 will now be reinstated retroactively.
ADA Restoration Act Victory!
MS activists contributed towards passage of the ADA Amendments Act, ensuring that the definition of “disability” relating to workplace protections will be construed fairly, and will restore millions under ADA protection. Effective January 1, 2009, the new law reverses four Supreme Court decisions that had significantly limited ADA coverage for persons with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, diabetes and a range of other conditions that are controlled by medication, are episodic and/or do not always severely restrict major life activities. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will issue further guidance on the application of the law
Funding for MS Home LINKS. Governor Patrick made emergency budget cuts of $250,000 in the FY09 budget for the Chapter’s direct service Home LINKS program.
Community First 1115 Waiver. Massachusetts is in final negotiations with the federal government to provide for the first time comprehensive home and community-based supports to adults with physical disabilities. The waiver, will allow qualified individuals at risk of nursing home placement to remain independent in the community.
Eligibility criteria are still being determined, but those already on Medicaid and who meet nursing home level of care are expected to qualify. In addition, Medicaid income eligibility is anticipated to be expanded under this waiver, and only the disabled individual’s income is counted, allowing more individuals with MS to enroll. Community First will not begin prior to July, 2009.
The GRC is determining the agenda for the 2009-2011 session. For more updates log onto http://www.msnewengland.org/.
The N.H. Government Relations Committee is filing legislation relating to driver manual updates, wheel chair only parking, and accessible parking placard abuse. This committee meets monthly in the Manchester office with conference call opportunities, and welcomes new members with a passion for advocacy, or have professional legal, public policy, or health care experience. Contact Brittany Little at 1-800-344-4867, opt. 2.
New Winter Parking law - Effective January 1, 2009
This law, initiated by the Chapter, requires private and public parking lot owners to keep accessible parking spaces clear of snow, debris, and other objects, or face a $250 fine issued by the police. Speak up and report violations in your community!
Are you currently approved for SSDI and stuck in the two-year wait for Medicare, or did this previously apply to you? The National MS Society is committed to eliminating the wait period and wants to hear your story. Contact Michelle Dickson at 1-800-344-4867 or firstname.lastname@example.org
from left, Mayor Guinta, Brandy Stanley, Rep.
Stanley stated, “I am very pleased that Manchester is taking a leading role in New Hampshire’s accessible parking awareness initiative, and I look forward to participating in these informational events. Increased awareness of how to use accessible parking spaces and how important they are will make the accessible parking system much more successful.”
If you are interested in your community hosting such an event, contact Brittany Little for a community toolkit of resources, email@example.com.
We are interested in identifying veterans with MS, especially from the Gulf War, to better understand barriers to independent living and gaps in benefits. To be added to our mailing list for updates, calls to action, and focus groups, contact Michelle.Dickson@mam.nmss.org.