Main Category: Medicare / Medicaid / SCHIP
Article Date: 09 Nov 2010 – 6:00 PST
email to a friend printer friendly opinions
Patient / Public:Healthcare Prof: Article Opinions: 0 posts
Will power wheelchairs continue to be available to Nevada’s
Medicare patients following a series of federal regulatory and policy changes?
There are grave concerns among consumer groups, Medicare beneficiaries and homecare equipment
providers in Nevada that the changes in Medicare policies may severely hamper the ability of
providers to supply quality products and services to beneficiaries.
One of the biggest threats is a new law establishing that the Medicare program will pay rental
payments over a 13 month period to homecare equipment providers after they supply power
wheelchairs to Medicare beneficiaries. The change will create significant cash flow problems for
providers, who will be forced to purchase the equipment from manufacturers, and then receive
reimbursement payments stretching over 13 months. Previously, Medicare beneficiaries could
request that the government purchase the equipment for them in the first month of use.
In addition, the Medicare program is expanding the flawed “competitive” bidding system. The
program restricts the number of providers who can supply home medical equipment in selected
geographical areas around the country, severely jeopardizing access to power wheelchairs for
seniors and those living with physical disabilities.
“We fear that the Medicare mobility benefit won’t be available for the people who need it because
there won’t be providers around to fill the power wheelchair prescriptions once doctors order them
for their patients,” said Corrie Herrera, rural director for the Northern Nevada Center for
Independent Living in Elko, Nevada. “Our organization, as well as others across the state who
represent people living with disabilities, feel that the Washington policymakers don’t understand
how much a power wheelchair means to the people who need them. We must ensure that Medicare
patients continue to have access to this equipment.”
Herrera said physicians prescribe power wheelchairs to patients needing assistance with critical
daily activities, such as grooming, getting to the bathroom and preparing food. By continuing to
perform these tasks in their homes with power wheelchairs, Herrera said it often delays the
necessity of placing beneficiaries in expensive nursing homes. Mobility assistance also reduces
emergency room visits for Medicare patients, who are less likely to suffer injuries from falls.
Jason Turner, 43, of Las Vegas, said his power wheelchair has made a dramatic difference in his
life. Turner, who has multiple sclerosis, said he has used a power chair for a dozen years. “It is like
getting my legs back,” said Turner. “I can help my daughters with their homework; and I have the
freedom and independence to go wherever I need to go.”
Moreover, Turner said that he is relieved not to be a “burden” on anyone because he can do so
many things for himself. “I hope that power wheelchairs remain available for other Medicare
beneficiaries,” he said. “Being mobile changes your life.”
Madonna Long, formerly of Reno and Battle Mountain, recalled that her mother, Ruth Crosthwaite,
began using a power wheelchair before she passed away. “My mother had severe arthritis and
could not push a manual wheelchair,” said Long, who has been in a wheelchair herself since
suffering injuries in a school bus accident as a teenager. “My wheelchair, and my mother’s
wheelchair, allowed us to live our lives, and continue to do the things that we love. It’s important
that other Medicare beneficiaries can also enjoy freedom and independence.”
But in recent years, changes in Medicare policies have significantly impacted providers, hampering
their ability to supply quality home medical equipment and services to Medicare beneficiaries. Over
the last five years, the Medicare program has cut reimbursements for power wheelchairs by more
than 35 percent. At the same time, the providers are experiencing excessive government audits and
extended delays in reimbursement payments.
The new rental reimbursement policy will slash providers’ cash-on-hand by 40 percent in the first
year. Because of the struggling economy, providers are unable to obtain loans or credit lines that
would allow them to purchase power wheelchairs from manufacturers and do the necessary
servicing so that Medicare beneficiaries have properly-adjusted equipment. Many Medicare
patients would receive chairs stored in warehouses that haven’t been specially fitted to address the
individual needs of the patients.
Consumer groups, providers, and Medicare patients are asking Congress to delay implementation of
the new policy from January 1, 2011 to January 1, 2012. The extra year would allow providers time
to adjust their business models. The delay wouldn’t increase Medicare spending because providers
would agree to a one-percent reduction in reimbursement rates for standard power wheelchairs.
Meanwhile, the bidding program for home medical equipment and services is scheduled to take
effect in nine metropolitan areas in January 2011. An additional 91 areas will start preparing for the
bidding program later in 2011, including locations in Nevada.
Yet, in September 166 bidding system experts and economists, including two Nobel laureates, sent
a letter to Congress warning about major problems with the bidding system. The experts concluded
that the system will fail, citing the fact that the bids are non-binding, the rules encourage
unsustainable low-ball bids, the design distorts bids and the program lacks transparency. H.R.
3790, the bill in the House of Representatives with broad bipartisan support, would replace the
bidding program with other types of cost savings but preserve patient access to mobility equipment.
Organizations that favor elimination of this bidding program include the ALS Association,
American Association of People with Disabilities, Muscular Dystrophy Association, National
Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, and United Spinal
Association, among others.
Note: Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice and you should not take any action before consulting with a health care
professional. For more information, please read our terms and conditions.
Follow us on Twitter
Medicare / Medicaid / SCHIP headlines
email to a friend
printer friendly version
personalize your news
back to top
All opinions are moderated before being added.
Please note that we publish your name, but we do not publish your email address. It is only used to let
If you write about specific medications or operations, please do not name health care professionals by name.
Contact Our News Editors
For any corrections of factual information, or to contact the editors please use our feedback form.
Please send any medical news or health news press releases to: