Government Relations Report:
October 1, 2020
AV Push | CMS Letter | NMEDA PAC
Last-Minute AV Push
With the recent introduction of the Safely Ensuring Lives Future Deployment and Research in Vehicle Evolution (SELF DRIVE) Act, House Republicans have initiated a longshot attempt to pass autonomous vehicle (AV)-related legislation just as the current session of Congress comes to an end. The bill is not expected to reach the House floor, but the policy matter will certainly be among the key transportation issues addressed before the next session of Congress.
In his introductory remarks, the bill’s sponsor Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) referenced mobility, technology leadership, and enhanced services in response to COVID-19: “There is a clear global race to [AVs], and for the U.S. to win that race Congress must act to create a national framework that provides developers certainty and a clear path to deployment. From increasing mobility for seniors and self-sufficiency for those with disabilities to providing contactless deliveries during the COVID-19 pandemic, [AVs] have limitless potential to drastically improve the lives of Americans.”
While no Senate companion bill has been introduced, Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI) – co-author of 2018’s AV START Act – again emphasized the technology’s potential benefits, such as expanding access to the elderly and persons with disabilities. “This is without question probably the most transformative technology in the auto industry since the first car came off of the assembly line.”
40+ members of The House of Representatives have sent a bipartisan letter to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services urging CMS to permanently stop applying competitive bid payment rates to “accessories” used with Complex Rehab Manual Wheelchairs. The term “accessories” is a Medicare policy term that does not properly convey that Complex Wheelchair accessories are in fact “critical components” such as seat/back pressure relieving cushions, positioning devices, recline/tilt systems, and specialty controls. Such critical components are considered essential to forming the complete mobility system required to meet the unique medical and functional needs of the beneficiary. The House letter asks CMS to follow Congressional intent and provide permanent and equal access to both Complex Power and Complex Manual Wheelchairs and accessories by permanently adopting a temporary 2019 policy change regarding the Medicare payment amounts for manual wheelchair accessories.
NMEDA representatives attended a mid-September virtual fundraiser for Senator Tammy Duckworth. The hour-plus gathering covered topics ranging from post-COVID economic recovery initiatives, infrastructure investment, VA healthcare, autonomous vehicles, and the Veterans Mobility Safety Act (specifically the Senator’s commitment to ensuring VA’s VMSA implementation aligns with Congress’s intent). On the shortlist of candidates but ultimately not selected as Joe Biden’s running mate, NMEDA is fortunate to have an ally like Duckworth in the Senate.