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Change in Medicare Wheelchair Policy May Prevent Texas Beneficiaries from Receiving Mobility Assistance Starting January
Date:12/20/2010

SAN ANTONIO, Dec. 20, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Since 1988, San Antonio resident Martha Oliver, 69, has used a power wheelchair that has allowed her to remain independent in her home.

She lives alone, but with help from the power wheelchair provided through Medicare and occasional visits from her daughter, she can groom, eat, and get to the bathroom. Because she can perform these daily necessities of life, Oliver can stay in the home she loves, rather than being placed in a nursing home or another care facility.

But now, like many other Medicare beneficiaries and home medical equipment providers, she is worried about whether new policies and regulations will allow Medicare patients to continue receiving power wheelchairs in the future.

"This power wheelchair is very important to me because I don't have the strength to push a manual wheelchair," said Oliver, who had polio and open heart surgery. "With the power wheelchair, I can do many things in my home for myself, and my daughter helps me with cooking. The power wheelchair allows me to have independence."

But Oliver is scheduled to receive a replacement power wheelchair next year, and even though she certainly should continue to qualify for it, she still worries about whether changes in Medicare policy will make obtaining a new power wheelchair more difficult.  "I'm supposed to receive a replacement chair in 2011," she said, "but with all the changes I don't know if I'll get it."

Access to power mobility assistance for Medicare beneficiaries may be jeopardized by a new law that ends the first-month purchase option for patients.

With the elimination of this option, the government plans to reimburse providers through rental payments over the first 13 months that a patient has a power wheelchair. But in the sluggish economy, most providers are unable to obtain the financing they need to transition to this change. The change is scheduled to be implemented in t
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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