Study: PWCs save Medicare money

Saturday, January 31, 2004

BRYAN, Texas - Beneficiaries who use power mobility are healthier and cost Medicare less in the long run than similar beneficiaries who don’t use a scooter or power wheelchair, according to a new study sponsored by the Scooter Store, the nation’s largest provider of power wheelchairs.
Doug Harrison

“This is data that we need CMS and their statisticians to start validating,” said Scooter Store President Doug Harrison. “Let’s face it, the industry is under fire. We want the whole world to know - beneficiaries, legislators and administrators - that for people who have a legitimate need, this is a cost savings.”

Over a three year period, beneficiaries who received a PWC or scooter saved Medicare $5,300 in additional medical costs, according to the study. By maintaining a beneficiary’s mobility, the study suggests, Medicare spends less on inpatient services to treat broken hips and other injuries. Wheelchairs, and in some instances scooters, also appear to serve as alternatives to more expensive options, such as skilled living facilities, according to the study.

The Scooter Store hired RRC, an economics consulting firm, to conduct the study, which took a year to complete.

“We know intuitively that we are doing the right thing by providing mobility,” said Rich Elkins, the Scooter Store’s research director. “We just wanted to see if there was an economic benefit that could be identified for those providing the benefit.”

Given the Scooter Store’s vested interest in the power mobility market and recent news reports spotlighting power chair fraud in the Medicare market, some may question the study’s reliability and the timing of its release. They shouldn’t, said Clifford Fry, an economist who contributed to the research.

“This is one project in our 25 years as a company,” Fry said. “There is no way we are going to blow our reputation on this one project. We were getting paid by the hour regardless. If the result was, ‘Gee, these wheelchairs don’t save you any money,’ that would have been the answer. But it wasn’t.”

RRC analyzed claims data from Medicare’s Standard Analytical File between 1994 and 2001. SAFs are 5% random samples of annual Medicare data, and frequently used to research Medicare issues.

The study compared the healthcare costs of beneficiaries who received powered mobility (about 20,000) against the healthcare costs for a control group of beneficiaries (about 3,000) with similar diagnoses. Members of the control group would have qualified for power mobility vehicles, had they submitted a claim.