California looks to slash wheelchair reimbursement

Sunday, July 20, 2003

July 21, 2003

LOS ANGELES - California officials, alarmed by the steep price the state pays for wheelchairs, especially in a $38-million budget crisis, have proposed several ways to cut costs.

The California Department of Health Services proposes the state contract directly with wheelchair manufacturers and negotiate rebates, and pay lower markups to retailers, reported the Los Angeles Times in a July 20 article. Gov. Gray Davis proposes the state eliminate wheelchairs for thousands of adults living on their own or at home, the newspaper reported.

In the last five years, the cost of supplying wheelchairs to disabled, elderly and needy Californians has more than doubled," the Los Angeles Times reported. Last year alone, the California Medical Assistance Program, or Medi-Cal, bought 16,723 chairs for $66.1 million.

California is the only big state to consistently pay MSRP for wheelchairs, say industry experts. Most states pay retailers a percentage below suggested retail price.

HME News reports in its August issue that lawmakers in California want reimbursement for custom wheelchairs reduced from MSRP to 80% of MSRP or to a contracted price.

The Los Angeles Times begins its 3,000 word article on wheelchairs by comparing the cost of one chair to that of a C-Class Mercedes-Benz: Both carry a sticker price of $36,933.