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More MS news articles for February 2004

Coalition Asks New CMS Head to Rescind Wheelchair Restrictions

Industry Says Citizens With Disabilities Are Losing Mobility

Feb. 20, 2004
U.S. Newswire

Companies representing the motorized wheelchair industry today applauded the appointment of Dr. Mark McClellan as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and asked that he make it a priority to review and then rescind a policy restricting Medicare assistance for motorized wheelchairs. Dr. McClellan previously was head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

An industry coalition, known as RAMP -- the Restore Access to Mobility Partnership -- has been working to persuade CMS, the White House, Congress and the US Department of Health and Human Services to rescind a new CMS policy restricting Medicare assistance for patients needing motorized wheelchairs.

"Dr. McClellan has been widely praised for his work at FDA and we are hoping that he will bring the same leadership to CMS,'' said Mal Mixon, Chairman and CEO of Invacare Corp. "CMS needs to immediately review its new wheelchair policy, and change it so that people with disabilities can receive the medical equipment that will improve their quality of life. Right now, citizens with disabilities all across the country are facing limited mobility because of this new policy.''

Under the Medicare guidelines issued in December, any patient able to walk a single step, without regard for function or safety, will not qualify for a motorized wheelchair. This restriction includes patients with cardiopulmonary disease whose limbs allow them to walk but whose lives may be endangered if they do. Moreover, patients with progressive neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and ALS, may also be denied wheeled mobility until they become 100 percent bed or chair confined.

Further, Bryan Dylewski, CEO of Mobility Products Unlimited, noted that the new policy will actually cost the government more money, rather than saving it.

"Maintaining mobility keeps the elderly and citizens with disabilities out of expensive nursing homes and costly 24-hour care," Dylewski said, adding that a study by the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research found that the savings could be as much as $26 billion a year and that each immobile senior costs Medicare $13,000 more per year than an independent senior.

"We strongly believe that if Mr. McClellan reviews the impact of this policy change he will conclude that it is hurting citizens with disabilities all across the country," Dylewski said. "Medicare is there to help those who need it, not to dash their hopes for increased mobility, and a better quality of life. We call on Dr. McClellan to get CMS back on the right track, where it is helping our citizens with disabilities."

The Restore Access to Mobility Partnership is a coalition of organizations and companies representing power wheelchair providers and manufacturers. Its members include: the American Association of Homecare; Invacare Corporation; the MED Group; Mobility Products Unlimited, LLC; Pride Mobility; The SCOOTER Store; and Sunrise Medical.

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