Company blames Medicare for layoffs

Saturday, January 31, 2004

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - The Scooter Store in January laid off approximately 200 employees and called the action a direct result of a “federal bureaucratic overreaction” to power chair fraud and abuse.

The 200 laid-off employees came from all of the company’s operations. The Scooter Store retained about 950 employees at its headquarters in New Braunfels, Texas, and 350 more sales and distribution employees nationwide.

At the center of the lay-off announcement was contention over a CMS “clarification” issued at the end of 2003 that has drawn deep criticism from across the industry.

The controversial clarification was aimed at re-emphasizing what CMS said were the coverage guidelines for power mobility, including a strict interpretation of the “bed or chair confined” qualification.

“We deeply regret the necessity of reducing our workforce,” Margaret McGukin, the Scooter Store’s executive vice president of marketing, said in a Jan. 14 press release. “Unfortunately, we have no choice since the unreasonable new ‘clarification,’ when its full impact is felt, may prevent us from serving thousands of disabled elderly people.”

Industry leaders have begun arguing the validity of the clarification with CMS. A fledgling coalition that includes leading power wheelchair manufacturers, AAHomecare along with the Scooter Store says the clarification is tantamount to a rule change or new policy and is requesting a period of public comment before the policy takes effect.