Right To Purchase Power Wheelchairs Becomes Hot Legislative Potato!

Georgie Blackburn, VP, Government Relations and Legislative Affairs


The healthcare horizon, affecting Medicare coverage for those receiving services at home, continues to change.  A hot topic for Session when returning to Washington D.C. September 2007 will be passing legislation covering children’s health care.


How does this affect Medicare beneficiaries?  The House has “tacked on” language to their draft Bill that impacts Long Term Care Facility funding, physician payment, the Medicare Oxygen benefit and payment for power wheelchairs required by Medicare beneficiaries to achieve activities of daily living.


Proposed HOUSE legislation would remove the current patient right to purchase power mobility and would only pay on a 13-month lease basis.  Ranking House members believe beneficiaries do not continue to use mobility equipment for a long period of time and have stated, “Patients either get better, go into a skilled facility or die.”   And, the House is willing to pay MORE on a lease basis than purchasing outright to prove its point.


If this legislation is passed, providers across the nation worry about patient access issues that are certain to follow.  Few providers, if any, are able to provide power mobility retailing for $10,000 - $25,000 as a lease item.  And who would pay for repairs during the lease period, the beneficiary?  Medicare doesn’t pay for repairs during a rental.


In August, Senator Arlen Specter, R-PA, held several “Town Hall” meetings throughout Pennsylvania.  Beneficiaries and providers flocked to share thoughts on the pending legislation that must be pounded out in a conference committee this fall.  Daniel Merrick, president of RDJ Catalogue Inc. and his son, 23-year-old Igor Merrick, diagnosed with Duchennes Muscular Dystrophy at an early age, joined us August 15 in New Bethlehem to voice concerns.


“I told Senator Specter how important it is for Igor to have the right of purchase at the onset, that his power chair is designed specifically for his personal use and configured to enhance his function.  The chair is over $20,000 and no provider, including BLACKBURN’S, would be able to provide it as a lease.  Igor has been using mobility equipment since age 7…so much for requiring long term care or discontinuing use!” said Dan.


“I know how some politicians work”, continued Merrick, “ they raise costs in one area and remove benefits in another until the budget looks like it will save when it actually costs more.  I have confidence Senator Specter will do all he can to combat this ill-conceived part of the Bill.”


BLACKBURN’S will continue to fight the proposed legislation and I encourage our clinical referrals to do the same!  For information on how to contact your legislators, call me at 724-224-9100, Ext. 367.


Photo Description:

Igor Merrick pictured with Senator Specter, his father Dan and younger brother, Jeremiyah during New Bethlehem Town Hall Meeting, August 15, 2007. 



It’s important to note Igor couldn’t travel to New Bethlehem in his power chair due to lack of funding for an accessible van. As a clinician, do you think there should be funding for accessibility outside the home? 


Email your thoughts to georgie.blackburn@blackburnsmed.com