Coalition seeks wheelchair cushion carve out

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

WASHINGTON – A group of disability advocates sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services today, urging Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to exempt specialty wheelchair seating cushions from national competitive bidding (NCB).

In the letter, the Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) Coalition states that if the cushions are put out to bid, some providers could switch to less-costly products, affecting beneficiary access.

"Access to such specialized seating cushions, if subjected to competitive bidding, will invariably suffer as winning bidders seek to promote seating cushions that have the lowest cost and, therefore, yield the largest profit for supplies in order to make ends meet," the coalition states. "Beneficiaries will lose access to specialized seating cushions through Medicare and may be forced to purchase them completely out-of-pocket, if at all."

ITEM points out that the cushions are important to manage pressure sores and other complications related to long-term wheelchair use. They are fitted to the user by a team of therapists, mobility device engineers and suppliers.