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Medicare Policies Restricting Power Wheelchair Repairs Leave Vulnerable Beneficiaries with Limited Mobility
Date:7/26/2013

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- For years, William Welch, 58, was a truck driver, a free spirit traveling along the roads. But now Welch spends his days in a Brunswick, Md. apartment, barely able to move from a chair to the refrigerator because his Medicare-supplied power wheelchair is broken and he can't find anyone to fix it, says the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare).

"I'm stuck in the house and I can't go anywhere," said Welch, who suffers from severe asthma and COPD. "When you lose your ability to move around, you're done. I can't see friends; I can't get groceries. I can't even get medicine for myself."

Medicare's inability to arrange repairs for beneficiaries' power wheelchairs is putting Welch's health at risk. Welch said he has fallen three times, and predicts, "I'll likely be heading to the emergency room after the next one."  

Thousands of seniors and people living with disabilities face similar health risks. Issues regarding repairs to Medicare-provided home medical equipment (HME) have persisted for years, but now they are more serious and more widespread. This dramatic escalation is the direct result of a national bidding program designed and implemented by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The way CMS awarded contracts in the program has driven hundreds of companies out of business. Combined with perplexing rules for contract winners, the bidding program has proven itself to be a danger to the very people it is supposed to help.

For instance, Welch received his wheelchair from The SCOOTER Store several years ago. But when the company went bankrupt earlier this year, he
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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