Our View of the Legislature: Durable Medical Equipment and Assistive Technology

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dLCV monitored several bills relating to assistive technology and durable medical equipment during the session, with some serious disappointments. Only one of the issues we watched advanced during this session.

One of the most significant bills we supported concerned Medicaid funding for customized wheelchairs in nursing facilities. HB 241 (Adams) would have added this coverage to the state Medicaid plan. As the bill made its way through the legislative process, it was amended several times, in an attempt to manage the associated costs. At one point, the bill contained a cap of $7500 for any device, which some felt effectively nullified the coverage, as a power wheelchair can cost many times that amount. When the bill reached the final stages of the process, the cap was removed, but that made the cost exceed any amount that was contained in either the House proposed budget or the Senate proposed budget. Although advocates believed that the fiscal impact statement attached to the bill was greatly exaggerated, they were unable to persuade lawmakers of that. A conference committee converted HB 241 into a work group bill, charging the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) with the task of developing a realistic fiscal projection, and a promise to reconsider the bill next year.

HB 1246 (Tran) would have required the Department of Education to develop guidelines about accessible digital tools used in student instruction, requiring all purchases after September 1, 2022 to comply with those guidelines. This is a bill that was requested by the National Federation of the Blind of Virginia. This bill was approved by the House of Delegates but was continued to 2023 in the Senate Committee on Finance.

The one issue that did advance this year concerned prosthetics. HB 925 (Roem) and SB 405 (Barker) require health insurers to cover prosthetic devices. The two bills were merged in a committee of conference, and approved by both houses. The bill now goes to the Governor, who has until April 11th to sign, veto, or amend the bill.

The disAbility Law Center of Virginia’s mission is to advance independence, choice and self-determination; protect legal, human and civil rights; and eliminate abuse, neglect and discrimination of people with disabilities through zealous and uncompromising legal advocacy and representation. We have an Assistive Technology program, where we promote an individual’s right to technology that will enable greater independence. Please call us at 1-800-552-3962 or check out our website at www.dlcv.org/get-help if you think you have an issue we can address.