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Government Report on Power Wheelchair Use in Medicare Triggers Misleading News Coverage, Says American Association for Homecare
Date:8/12/2011

WASHINGTON, Aug. 12, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A July 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) about power wheelchair usage in Medicare back in 2007 has resulted in misleading articles published in several media outlets, including USA Today.    

The findings section at the front of the OIG report, "Most Power Wheelchairs in the Medicare Program Did Not Meet Medical Necessity Guidelines," begins with the statement, "Sixty-one percent of power wheelchairs provided to Medicare beneficiaries in the first half of 2007 were medically unnecessary or had claims that lacked sufficient documentation to determine medical necessity."

This suggests that most power wheelchairs provided in 2007 were not medically necessary. But a reader would only have to finish the paragraph to discover that the OIG report found the wheelchairs were not medically necessary in only two percent of the cases, out of the 375 sample claims the OIG reviewed. In those two percent of claims, the OIG found that manual wheelchairs or scooters would have been more appropriate for the Medicare beneficiary. In seven percent of the claims, the OIG said "beneficiaries should have received a different type of power wheelchair than was provided." And 52 percent of the claims were "insufficiently documented to determine whether the power wheelchairs were medically necessary."  

In other words, in most cases examined in the study, the OIG could not determine whether or not the wheelchairs were medically necessary – in their sample of four-year-old data, which does not reflect current regulations or reimbursement rates.

Yet, last month, USA Today published a

SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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