FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 19, 2015 CONTACT Don Clayback, NCART Executive Director, 716-839-9728, [email protected] Coalition of Complex Rehab Technology stakeholders call on Illinois Lawmakers to protect, not punish, Medicaid beneficiaries with severe disabilities Urgent action needed to reverse payment cuts and ensure people with disabilities access to specialized wheelchairs and adaptive equipment Buffalo, New York - A coalition of Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) stakeholders made up of people with disabilities, medical professionals, disability rights advocates, and CRT providers from across Illinois are sending an urgent message to state lawmakers - in the quest for Medicaid cuts, don't punish Illinois Medicaid beneficiaries who need specialized CRT products and services. To restore access and prevent negative consequences, recent payment policy changes and cuts to CRT must be rescinded now. Kim Brown, the 2012 Ms. Wheelchair Illinois, has joined the effort because she is concerned and does not want to see lawmakers overlook the needs of the tens of thousands of people with disabilities in Illinois. Brown was born with Spina Bifida but she wants everyone to know that hasn't held her back. She has earned two Master's degrees, is a Senior Business Analyst in Chicago, and states CRT is very important to her. "My wheelchair is basically my legs," Brown said. "The equipment I use is highly specialized and individually tailored to fit my needs. I use my chair every single day. I urge Illinois lawmakers to rescind these cuts to protect access for the many people who, like me, have Complex Rehab Technology needs." As a result of recent policy changes and payment cuts the two largest CRT providers in the state have had to temporarily suspend all but emergency services to the Medicaid program. The availability and proper provision of CRT products and supporting services enables people with disabilities to address their medical needs and maximize their independence. It also plays a key role in helping the state control and reduce Medicaid costs. "There are only a handful of qualified companies who provide these specialized wheelchairs and adaptive equipment to Illinois Medicaid beneficiaries." said Don Clayback, Executive Director of NCART. "If nothing is done to reverse these major cuts, this drop in access will significantly compromise the health and independence of children and adults with disabilities and at the same time increase the cost for medical care and hospitalization." Unfortunately access to this specialized equipment has been reduced due to major Medicaid payment cuts. In the last 30 days Illinois CRT companies that supply these products have been hit with multiple unexpected cuts from (1) an unannounced April change in the CRT payment methodology and (2) a just announced May 1st across-the-board payment cut of 16.75%. As a result, the two largest CRT providers in the state have been forced to temporarily suspend the provision of almost all products and services. Jill Sparacio is an occupational therapist in Chicago and has been in practice for over 25 years. She works with children and adults with disabilities who require specialized wheelchairs and other adaptive equipment. "The important role that CRT plays can't be overstated. Are the savings in cuts to CRT going to be noticeable in terms of the state's budget compared to the detriment that the cuts will cost? Any savings that causes reductions in access will be more than offset by increased costs for resultant medical care, need for increased assistance within a person's home, as well as loss of income by putting a person's job in jeopardy." Sparacio continued "What's truly unfortunate is that many of the people impacted by these cuts have severe disabilities and have no voice or ability to advocate for themselves. The state needs to find a way to deal with the budget issues without hurting this frail population." The coalition of CRT stakeholders is asking lawmakers to fix these access problems by working with the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services to rescind the recent changes to payment rates and policies. "While everyone understands the need for the state to closely examine and make changes in the Medicaid program, such changes should not be at the expense of the people in the state who have the greatest needs. We are sending an urgent message to lawmakers to do the right thing for people with disabilities who require this equipment." said Melissa Pickering, Executive Vice President of Payer Relations for Numotion. "The people our companies serve typically require care twenty four hours a day, seven days a week," said Ed Curley, Vice President of Business Development and Payer Relations for National Seating & Mobility. "The equipment we provide to our customers is something they depend on every single day. All we are asking is for the state to recognize the specialized needs of people with severe disabilities and make needed changes to protect them and their families." ABOUT NCART NCART, the National Coalition for Assistive and Rehab Technology, is a national organization of suppliers and manufacturers of Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) products and services used by people with significant disabilities and chronic medical conditions. NCART seeks to ensure these individuals have appropriate access to CRT products and supporting services. In pursuit of that goal, NCART works with consumers, clinicians, and physicians along with federal, state and private policy makers to establish and protect appropriate coverage, coding, and quality standards. Find out more at