Researchers: Power mobility saves Medicare money

Sunday, December 11, 2005

BRYAN, Texas -- Medicare beneficiaries who use scooters and power wheelchairs break their hips much less frequently than do beneficiaries with similar physical problems who don't have access to the equipment, an economic consulting team reported last week.

Through its analysis of Medicare data, RRC Inc. determined that beneficiaries with powered mobility equipment averaged 3.25 hip breaks per 100 people. Beneficiaries in need of powered mobility but who did not have it averaged 14.87 hip breaks per 100 people. This difference accounts for some of the significant differences in Medicare hospitalization and physician expenses for the members of these groups, said economist Dr. Clifford Fry of RRC.

Health costs related to a hip fracture range from $16,300 to $18,700 during the year following the injury, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, half of those with hip fractures cannot return to independent living environments. That further adds to Medicare's costs and to the suffering of the individuals involved, according to the CDC.

RRC performed a statistical analysis of Medicare power wheelchair data several years ago for the Scooter Store. That work convinced Fry and other RRC principals that the HME industry lacks the scientific data necessary to back up its claims regarding homecare's cost effectiveness.

RRC reported at HME News' Business Summit in Chicago in September that over a three year period, purchasing a scooter or power wheelchair for a beneficiary can save Medicare as much as $8,760, with most of the savings occurring in the first year. Medicare saves the money by spending less on hospitalizations, physician services and home health expenditures, RRC reported.

To validate its current research, which the company paid for itself, RRC has submitted its methodology for analyzing Medicare data to a peer-review economic journal.

The firm plans to halt further HME efforts until "we see if we can get some funding for some more research," Fry said.