State of the Medicare Mobility Benefit
WASHINGTON, Jan. 20, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The State of the Medicare Mobility Benefit has never been more troubling, and perplexing. For much of the last decade, Congress and regulators implemented policies and regulations limiting the effectiveness of the Medicare benefit that is used by senior citizens and people living with disabilities to obtain power wheelchairs prescribed by their physicians. But a series of changes ranging from the so-called competitive bidding program to elimination of the first-month purchase option to excessive audits and denial of reimbursement claims are combining to place serious doubt on whether Medicare beneficiaries can continue to receive medically required power mobility equipment that enhances their quality of life and ultimately saves taxpayer dollars.
It's unfortunate that as we assess the care received by some of the most vulnerable people in our society, the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) must question the government's commitment to them. On July 30, 1965, when President Johnson signed the Medicare bill into law, he asserted to former President Truman, who was at his side, "...there is another tradition that we share today. It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance."
Yet, it's clear to many physicians, clinicians, advocates for people with disabilities and medical equipment providers that in the coming months the government will not live up to that pledge. Across the country, especially in rural areas, there will be Medicare patients holding prescriptions for power wheelchairs who will be unable to find providers that can supply them with wheelchairs in a timely manner, and perhaps not at all. Government policies have jeopardized the sustainability of many small and family businesses, forcing them