Scooter providers: We feel pain, too

Monday, April 30, 2007

Ever since CMS revamped its coding, pricing and coverage criteria for power mobility devices last fall, Bob Early has gradually reduced the number of scooters on his showroom floor to one (from seven) and increased the number of power wheelchairs to nine.
"We're doing a whole lot fewer scooters now," said Early, owner of VIP Scooters in Harrisonburg, Va. "See, the thing is, we take assignment on everything that goes through our door, and we've been taking a beating on scooters. It's not going well for anybody."
Much of the concern surrounding the changes to the PMD benefit has revolved around power wheelchairs, because providers are less likely to take assignment on scooters (many consider them a cash-only business). Also, power wheelchairs carry higher price tags.
But scooter providers like Early are feeling the pain, too. CMS used to reimburse up to $2,000 for a scooter and now it reimburses $1,000 to $1,500, depending on the scooter.
"It has always been difficult to provide scooters to Medicare beneficiaries, and now, what we're hearing is that it's extremely difficult, if not impossible," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government relations for Pride Mobility Products.
Even providers who take assignment for scooters on a limited basis concede the reimbursement cuts have had an impact.
"Out bottom line has been affected," said Mark Farmer, president of Southwest Mobility in Mesa, Ariz. "If anything, scooters are going to become more of a cash item, although probably not 100%."
The changes to the PMD benefit have spurred at least one provider, however, to do the opposite of Early. Jim Leedom, the owner of Home Health Depot in Lomita, Calif., recently began taking assignment on scooters; he supplied about half a dozen last month.
"It used to be that you would tell a customer that they wouldn't qualify for a power wheelchair under present rules, and they would be unhappy," Leedom said. "Now we tell them we may be able to qualify them for a scooter instead, if, say, they have the upper strength to maneuver it."