April 5, 2007

By Frank Long

The cap that limits Medicare payments for physical rehabilitation to $1,780 per beneficiary per year could be repealed for good if legislation making its way through the House continues to gather steam among lawmakers from both parties.

Patients who have suffered stroke and spinal cord injuries are among those most likely to benefit from the cap’s removal, according to Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), sponsor of the bill (H.R. 748). Since introducing the legislation Jan. 31 Becerra has found 66 co-sponsorships inside the House, including a buy-in from 2008 presidential candidate, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).

After making three stopovers in committees the bill was referred to the House Subcommittee on Health Feb. 7, where it awaits consideration by the 13-member committee that includes Becerra.

In an interview with Rehab Management, Becerra’s communications director, Steve Haro, indicated the bill was continuing to gain momentum.

“We add a new co-sponsor every day,” Haro said. “We pick up about five members for every week we’re in session.

Becerra’s ties inside the House may help channel the bill through the 110th Congress and into law. In addition to his role as assistant to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Becerra is a member of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Subcommittee on Health, where the bill awaits review.

“It certainly helps that [Congressman Becerra] has the ear of Pete Stark (D-CA), the chairman of Ways and Means,” Haro observed. “The bill continues to have strong support but really it’s hard to say what Congress will do now.”

The bill may see renewed activity when the House returns to session April 16.

Rep. Phil English (R-PA), one of the seven members of the House Committee on Ways and Means to co-sponsor the bill has labeled the current cap “devastating” to the elderly. In a Feb. 9 statement English said, “It should be a decision made between a doctor and patient, not by accountants monitoring a set limit."

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