Down but not out: Industry continues fight for purchase option

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

WASHINGTON - It doesn't look like the HME industry will delay elimination of the first month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs this year, but there's still hope for 2011, said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products.

The problem: Between now and year's end, there's no legislation to attach the one-year delay to, Johnson said.

"We are now focusing on identifying options to address this very early next year," he said. "I can tell you that support has continued to build over the last few weeks with key legislators who support (the delay)."

When the elimination of the purchase option takes effect Jan. 1, providers who supply standard power wheelchairs must transition from a cash business to a rental model. But to do that, many must line up financing, and in a tight credit market that has proved difficult. As a result, many providers have said they'll have to exit the standard power wheelchair market, Johnson said.

"I think it will create an access problem and that is one of the main reasons that the consumer groups (support the delay)," he said. "This is also a job-killing provision, and it is a small business problem as well. It is going to disproportionately harm small businesses that can't secure the necessary capital to transition."

Angie Plager, the lead advocate for People for Quality Care, told The VGM Group recently that eliminating the first-month purchase option will make it harder for people with disabilities to get wheelchairs.

"Obtaining a power wheelchair is critical for them," Plager told VGM. "Without a power wheelchair, these patients would be placed in nursing homes or other care facilities."