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

wo weeks, on January 1, but providers, consumer groups, and Medicare patients have all asked Congress to delay implementation for one year so that providers can have time to adjust their business models to account for the significant cash flow problems created by the new policy.  Many providers say they will no longer offer power wheelchairs or even close their businesses because of this policy change.

The minimal cost to delay this provision would be fully paid for by a one percent reduction in reimbursement rates for standard power wheelchairs, and would not add a penny to the deficit.

Providers estimate that the new rental policy scheduled to begin January 1 will slash their cash-on-hand by 40 percent in the first year.  In addition, the transition to providing rented power wheelchairs carries financial risks that some providers may be unwilling to take.  For instance, if a patient is placed in a nursing home or dies during the rental period, the providers must pick up the power wheelchair and custom accessories from the patient, and the government rental payments will end for that patient.  

There are also repercussions for Medicare patients.  Providers would have an inventory of used wheelchairs that might be re-rented to other Medicare beneficiaries, giving them used equipment that might not fit their specific needs as well as a new power wheelchair customized for them.

Clearly, many lawmakers recognize the scope of the problems that will be created if the policy is not delayed. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate have signed letters asking the chairs and ranking members of key congressional committees to support the delay.  In their letter, which was signed by 44 of their House colleagues, Reps. Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) noted that "providers unable to secure financing and prepare for this substantial change in reimbursement policy will be unable to co
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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