PMD cuts generate news from coast to coast

Sunday, October 22, 2006

WASHINGTON - In a move that could help the industry's cause, media outlets across the country have begun picking up on reports that Medicare's reduced payments for power mobility devices will deny patient access to much needed technology.

"You can't pay for this kind of PR," said John Gallagher, VGMs vice president of government relations. "This is something that beneficiaries can understand and that the mainstream press can pick up on."

The bad publicity can only help the industry's fight to roll back or delay the cuts scheduled to take effect Nov. 15, said industry watchers.

A sample of headlines from newspapers and other media include the following: Medicare cuts limit access to power wheelchairs (; Medicare cuts could eliminate power wheelchairs for disabled (Houston Chronicle); Power wheelchair users' plight could worsen (; and Medicare cuts may mean fewer wheelchairs for disabled (WAVY-TV).

The new fee schedule for PMDs will reduce reimbursement from 26% to 41%. Those prices are unworkable and unacceptable, a number of providers told mainstream news organizations last week.

In an often repeated quote, Tim Pederson, CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D., said that many wheelchair users "are going to have to pay out of pocket."

A recent HME News Poll supported Pederson's statement. Of the poll's 374 respondents, most of them providers, 12% said they would cope with the reduced reimbursement by no longer providing PMDs to Medicare beneficiaries; 39.4% said they would provide less expensive equipment; 19.4% said they would eliminated PMDs from their product mix; and 11.6% said they would go out of business.

"I see no choice but to cease doing business with Medicare," said Richard Lerner, president of Allcare Medical in Sayreville, N.J. "Most likely, our managed care payers will follow suit, and if that happens, we will have to exit the PMD business altogether."

In related news, homecare and mobility stakeholders have galvanized members of Congress to voice concern about the deep cuts in the power mobility device fee schedule. Congressional members from across the United States--including Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Dakota--have contacted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CMS to express concern about the cuts.