Shoprider seeks battery code

Saturday, March 31, 2007

CARSON, Calif. - A couple pieces of news trickled out of Shoprider in late February that should be of interest to HME providers.
First, for those who have lobbied the company to develop at $500 power wheelchair to offset cuts in Medicare reimbursement, the answer is no, said President David Lin.
"We just can't make a toy (wheelchair) and sell it," he said. "This is not a toy. It's a medical device. We are liable."
Secondly, company execs have their fingers crossed that Medicare will grant Shoprider's lithium-ion wheelchair battery a permanent HCPCS code later this year.
"So far everything looks positive--there's nothing to make us suspect that we aren't going to get it," Lin said. "We expect to hear in November."
Currently, providers must bill the 24-volt, 6-pound battery (the only one of its kind on the market) under the K0108 miscellaneous code and then hope that they get reimbursed appropriately. The lithium battery retails for $575, about five times as much as a conventional wheelchair battery. Because of that, it doesn't make sense for providers to bill it under the existing battery code. Thus far, payment has varied from MAC region to MAC region.
"In some cases it has been inadequate, and in other cases it has been very close," Lin said.
While the lithium battery costs much more than a traditional battery, the technology promises two advantages. At 6 pounds, it is much lighter than a standard 25-pound battery, catering to consumer demand for portability. And while Medicare pays for a new battery every year, some say a lithium battery could last four to five years and cut down on billing and delivery costs for providers.
In the rehab industry, while many acknowledge the lithium battery's great potential, they also call the technology too new and untested to install on wheelchairs or scooters. Shoprider debuted its battery in 2005 and thus far it has performed well, Lin said.
Shoprider currently offers the lithium battery only on its Smartie portable wheelchair, but if granted a HCPCS code, the company would consider expanding it on other products, Lin said.