The Scooter Store lays off 200

Sunday, January 18, 2004

January 19, 2004

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas - The Scooter Store, the nation's leading provider of power wheelchairs and scooters, will layoff of about 200 employees as a result of a "clarification" in Medicare rules governing beneficiary eligibility for mobility assistance.       
Following the layoffs, The Scooter Store will have about 950 employees at its New Braunfels world headquarters and approximately 350 workers at sales and distribution facilities at more than 60 locations across the nation.
The Scooter Store blamed the layoffs on a recent CMS "clarification" that may deny many disabled elderly the mobility assistance granted in the past, said Margaret McGuckin, executive vice president of marketing for The Scooter Store.
The action purportedly was to help combat fraud and abuse of the system.   Medicare has provided power wheelchairs since 1996 to people needing assistance to get around inside their home. The new "clarification," as interpreted by CMS, would deny the power mobility benefit for any person who can take more than a single step within his or her home.
"We deeply regret the necessity of reducing our workforce," McGuckin said.   "Unfortunately, we have no choice since the unreasonable new 'clarification,' when its full impact is felt, may prevent us from serving thousands of disabled elderly people who, with power mobility, would have been able to continue to live independently."  
McGuckin termed the clarification a federal bureaucratic overreaction to criminal fraud uncovered in the Houston area last year.
"Certainly we support all legitimate efforts to eliminate fraud," McGuckin said, "but unfortunately, CMS failed to detect and act on this fraud despite ample warnings and signs of blatant wrongdoing going back almost a year," she said.  
"Now, as a result of CMS's failure to take appropriate action in a timely manner, America's disabled seniors are the tragic losers and legitimate providers are being penalized," she said.  
McGuckin said that she is hopeful that the restrictive Medicare "clarification" will be revised soon to allow seniors ongoing access to power mobility equipment, enabling the freedom, independence and dignity they deserve.