Update on VA Choice of Practitioner
On October 17, 2018, the Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service (“PSAS”) briefed the Federal Advisory Committee on Prosthetics and Special Disabilities on the status of the proposed rule, 82 Fed. Reg. 48,018 (the “Proposed Rule”), which would grant the Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) the sole authority to determine whether a VA orthotist/prosthetist or a private, VA-contracted orthotist/prosthetist will furnish orthotic and prosthetic (“O&P”) care to an eligible veteran. In December 2017, the VA received over 300 comments from the public, including from NAAOP and the O&P Alliance, on the Proposed Rule. The Proposed Rule largely remained dormant since the closing of the public comment period, and it was unclear whether the VA intended to finalize the Proposed Rule in its current form, modify its proposals, or rescind the Proposed Rule all together.
Approximately one year after the publication of the Proposed Rule, the PSAS revealed in its briefing that the VA is proceeding with rulemaking and carefully considering the public comments. The PSAS suggested that the VA could take up to a year (or perhaps even longer) to finalize the rule, although it remains unclear what form the final rule will take and whether the VA will address our concerns on veteran choice of practitioner. One potential reason for this extended timeframe is that the VA is simultaneously in the process of promulgating regulations under the recently-enacted MISSION Act, which allows veterans to gain access to non-VA, community providers for primary care and related services. Once the Proposed Rule on prosthetics is finalized, the PSAS indicated that it would update existing handbooks and policies to ensure consistency with the final rule.
NAAOP will continue to monitor the status of the Proposed Rule and advocate against eliminating veterans’ long-standing right to select the orthotist and prosthetist who best serves their specific needs, whether the orthotist or prosthetist is a VA employee or has a VA contract.
In addition to the discussion on the Proposed Rule, the PSAS clarified that the threshold reimbursement amount for “prosthetics” under the VA is being raised from $3,500 to $10,000 per claim. This means that prosthetics (which is a term that is defined broadly under the VA program) with reimbursement levels up to $10,000 may be purchased directly by VA prosthetic staff from non-VA providers, without going through the formal VA procurement process, which typically is a longer and more complex process. This will likely have a positive impact on many orthoses purchased by the VA from private orthotists with VA contracts. It will likely have less of an impact on limb prostheses as these are typically greater than $10,000 in reimbursement level.
Lastly, the PSAS confirmed that “urgent” or “emergent” prosthetic items (e.g., splints, crutches, slings, or soft collars) are being covered under the MISSION Act’s Patient Centered Community Care contracts, while non-urgent and non-emergent items (i.e., the vast majority of custom orthotics and prosthetics) will continue to be provided by PSAS under the existing reimbursement system. NAAOP will continue to keep you informed as developments occur.