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Rural Wheelchair Patients Will Be Hit Hard by Power Wheelchair Rental Policy; Providers, Advocates Ask Congress for a Delay
Date:12/9/2010

WEST UNION, Iowa, Dec. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Medicare beneficiaries residing in rural areas of the country may not be able to obtain power wheelchairs prescribed by their physicians if the Medicare program implements a mandatory rental policy as scheduled in January, according to home medical equipment providers and consumer groups.

Stakeholders are asking Congress to delay for a year the policy that would eliminate a beneficiary's option to have Medicare purchase the equipment during the first month the patient has it. In place of the first-month purchase option, a 13-month rental policy will be implemented for power wheelchairs. But that new policy will create financial burdens for providers, especially small businesses in rural areas, because they can't afford the upfront costs associated with supplying the power wheelchair and waiting more than a year for full reimbursement from the government.

"What I'm hearing from providers in the smaller communities is that if they have to start renting power wheelchairs, they will have to quit the business," said Julie Weidemann, president of the Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services (MAMES), which has 280 providers in Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Weidemann explained that the policy would cause cash flow nightmares for many providers, especially since in the current economic environment it is difficult for many providers to find lenders willing to extend credit to their businesses. While large and small providers alike are wrestling with how to deal with the new policy, Medicare patients in rural areas may be impacted the most because many small providers who service rural communities either won't continue supplying power wheelchairs or will go out of business.

Weidemann cited problems caused by the re
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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