Medicare policies are changing the way PWC providers do business

Monday, April 11, 2011

WASHINGTON - Power wheelchair providers have made abrupt operations changes to comply with new Medicare policies, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted by AAHomecare, also found that regulatory changes have made it difficult for some businesses to provide quality products and service to Medicare patients.

"These companies are frustrated by government policies that are creating obstacles to providing mobility assistance to Medicare beneficiaries," said Tyler Wilson, CEO and president of AAHomecare in a release. "Yet, many companies are making adjustments in their business operations so that Medicare beneficiaries can continue to receive power wheelchairs."

Of more than 125 businesses across the country contacted for the survey, 65 percent said their ability to service Medicare beneficiaries has been compromised, 48 percent said their repair policy has changed, 45 percent said the area in which they service patients has changed and 28 percent said their level of staffing has been affected.  

Wilson said the elimination of the first month purchase option generated a lot of comments from survey respondents. 

"Unfortunately, I have to consider the longevity of the patient prior to a power chair order," stated Glenn Steinke, of Air-Way Medical, in Bishop, Calif.  "If the patient may not live through the rental cap, I will have to take back a very used chair. What will I do with it then?" 

Other providers acknowledged that they have to carefully select customers who are less likely to need extensive repairs on their chairs.  

"I have reduced the amount of chairs I will provide," said one provider. "I have to say 'no' to certain patients that I know will be heavy users of the products that can cost me a lot in repairs."

Wilson stated that the government polices are yielding many unintended consequences that must be addressed, including forcing providers to "cherry-pick" the Medicare beneficiaries they can afford to assist, while others may go without mobility assistance.