Call for common sense

Monday, July 25, 2016

WASHINGTON – Tucked into the Office of Inspector General’s recent Mid-Year Report for 2016 is an investigation to determine the potential savings Medicare could achieve by renting complex power wheelchairs for 13 months instead of purchasing them.

It’s not the first time the idea has been thrown out there, but the OIG takes it a step further by saying it plans to issue a report on the subject sometime this year.

“We are reaching out to the OIG to see if we can provide them with any information,” said Don Clayback, executive director of NCART.

Medicare began using a rental model for standard power wheelchairs and scooters in 2011.

While it’s a serious threat, Clayback believes common sense will prevail. The people who use complex power wheelchairs have high-level disabilities that require them to use their wheelchairs for the rest of their lives.

“Medicare pays 105% of the purchase price if they rent, so it’s less expensive to purchase,” he said. “It’s a fairly straightforward calculation.”

Financials aside, there are other disadvantages to a rental model for complex power wheelchairs, Clayback says. It would also handicap the providers who supply them.

“The individualized nature of these wheelchairs is going to suffer, because if you’re renting an item, there’s a different mindset,” he said. “They can’t configure it like they would want, if they know they have to put it back out eventually.”

Additionally, while most complex power wheelchairs are purchased, beneficiaries do have the option of renting if it’s a special circumstance.

“It’s the ideal situation, as is,” said Clayback.