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

had to call CMS for information on how to get his wheelchair repaired after it broke down in early June. He was given a list of suppliers who had won bids to provide power wheelchairs in his area.

"When I called companies on the list, they said they couldn't help me because their company didn't provide power wheelchairs," said Welch. "It turns out these companies won contracts to provide power wheelchairs, but they have no obligation to repair chairs that were provided by another company. I kept calling back Medicare, and they kept giving me the same numbers to call. It's a vicious cycle."

Welch said his only option is to pay for the repairs himself, something he can't afford. "I get a disability check because of my medical condition," he said. "Once I pay my bills I barely have enough left for food for the month. I can't pay to fix my wheelchair."

John J. Letizia, who is vice chairman of AAHomecare, explained that problems with repairs for power wheelchair provided to Medicare beneficiaries pre-date the bidding program that began two years ago in nine locations around the country.

In order to be reimbursed for repairing power wheelchairs, CMS requires companies to collect the documentation of medical necessity that was originally submitted when the beneficiary was approved to receive the equipment. That becomes a problem, Letizia said, when the supplier who provided the equipment is out of business and there is no access to the paperwork. "In those cases, CMS wants providers to go to the doctor and get the documentation from them. Good luck with that," said Letizia, who is also president of Laurel Medical Supplies, Inc. in Pennsylvania.

The bidding process adds new hurdles. For instance, only the contracted supplier who provided the power wheelchair is obligated to repair it, and that obligation only lasts through the 13-month r
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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