Medicare To Reduce Power Wheelchair Payments
CMS on Nov.15 under a new policy will reduce Medicare reimbursements for power wheelchairs by about 35%, a move that might "force suppliers out of business and leave severely handicapped consumers" without access to the devices, the Washington Times reports. Medicare currently reimburses suppliers as much as $6,130 for standard power wheelchairs, but the amount will decrease to about $3,800 under the new policy.
The new policy will establish a number of reimbursement codes to more accurately pay for power wheelchairs and other home medical equipment.
CMS decided to reduce Medicare reimbursements for power wheelchairs in response to a significant increase in program expenditures for the devices in recent years.
CMS spokesperson Ellen Griffith said, "Medicare was paying for the equipment at a much higher rate than what it was being sold for on the market, and the beneficiary was paying a higher copayment as a result," adding, "The payment rates are now closer to their market rate, and the beneficiaries will pay closer to what they should pay."
Cara Bachenheimer -- vice president of government affairs for Invacare, the largest U.S. manufacturer of power wheelchairs -- said, "Most suppliers do not have the kind of margins to sustain these cuts." She added, "This new payment model does not pay higher for more complex equipment and is going to be done at the expense of beneficiary access to the equipment."
Jim Greatorex -- president of Black Bear Medical, the largest supplier of home medical equipment in the Northeast -- said, "These prices are just absurd. This policy change is motivated strictly by saving money and does not take into effect the devastating effect it will have on the consumer, supplier or manufacturer" (Lopes, Washington Times, 10/11).