What’s The Scooter Store’s legacy?

‘If it can happen to The Scooter Store, it can happen to anyone’
Friday, September 27, 2013

YARMOUTH, Maine – Stakeholders expect the downfall of The Scooter Store to have several lasting effects on the power mobility industry.

The Scooter Store announced Sept. 13 that it has been cut out of Rounds 1 and 2 of competitive bidding, and will close for good in the coming weeks. 

Decreased access

Among the consequences of the closure, and the controversy and investigation surrounding it: Access to power wheelchairs will likely take a hit, providers say.

“I suspect utilization will go down dramatically,” said Cory Baker, compliance officer at Abilene, Texas-based Choice Medical Supply. “Quite a few doctors are done with power mobility because this has put a bad taste in their mouths. They’re gun-shy.”

Providers say any providers hoping to fill The Scooter Store’s shoes will also be gun-shy.

“It would be a scary hole to fill, with the threat of audits so high,” said Tyler Riddle, vice president of Albany, Ga.-based MRS Homecare. “I think you’ll see more mom-n-pops learning to do this again.”

Repair issues 

Even when closed, The Scooter Store will continue to sting some providers. CMS is not only investigating The Scooter Store’s claims and deeming some equipment medically unnecessary, but also recouping money paid to other providers for repairs. 

“We’ve had that happen,” said Rick Perrotta, president of Network Medical Supply in Charlotte, N.C. “Now we’re not servicing the chair unless it’s five years or older.”

Consultant Martin Szmal says CMS needs to step up to the plate to resolve these issues and make the same allowance it did for oxygen in August—when the provider goes out of business, the patient should be able to start over with someone else. 

“This is something CMS needs to address,” said Szmal, founder of The Mobility Consultants. “We can only guess at the number of patients this will affect.”

The legacy

For good or for ill, nothing did more to raise awareness of the power mobility benefit than The Scooter Store and its late night TV ads, providers say, and the provider will not soon be forgotten.

“Whether I agree with the ads or not doesn’t matter,” said Mark Farmer, president of Mesa, Ariz.-based Southwest Mobility.

Providers say The Scooter Store will also live on as a cautionary tale.

“The largest mobility provider got shut down in a heartbeat through audits and recoupments,” said Riddle. “You have to have every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed—if it can happen to The Scooter Store, it can happen to anyone.”


The "Cautionary"  tale about the Scooter Store is. 1.Sell the product the client qualifies for. 2. Let the client select the model. 3. Dont drop off equipment and run. 4. Dont pressure the client into a powerchair instead of a scooter. 5. Don't wait 6-8 weeks to service equipment in the field when it breaks down  6. "IF IT CAN HAPPEN TO THE SCOOTER STORE IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE."  7. ANYONE that games the system it can happen to. 8. From the volume of calls we take the end users have not been surprised by what had happened.

The Scooter Store was a scam that ruined the industry for beneficaries and providers.  CMS was too incompetent to shut them down even when they were sent proof of fraud from many sources. The scooter Store were clearly the crooks but the law(CMS) allowed this to continue, which is the real crime.  It would be nice if there was some intelligent and responsible people in government today that could take appropriate actions to remove an isolated cancer rather than just killing the patient.

Designing a business model based on third party reimbursment -- especially government reimbursement -- is very risky.  An organization has little control over their strategy which can experience wild swings depending on which party is in office.  The has been made perfectly clear.

Like any investment, it is prudent to diversify to reduce risk.  With DME or health care supplies, this means not putting all your eggs in one basket.  Having a portion of your mix based on reimbursement is ok, as long as the other part of the mix can maintain the businesses health in the event of a shift in the rules.

Greed and easy money are what drove The Scooter Store and Liberty Medical to bankruptcy.  Even though they spent hundreds of millions of dollars on wall to wall TV coverage, they failed to establish valuable equity or goodwill behind their brand names which now are worthless.  Building trustworthy, reliable brands which better meet consumer needs is the essence of good business. 



Let's be honest here.  You just scratched the surface of what the Scooter Store did.  They purchased from the same manufacturers we do, which ARE reliable brands.  But like any equipment, it requires maintenance, even if still within the warranty period.  We have several patients whose competence has come in to question when general care of equipment is involved.  Despite that, the provider maintains the burden of having to educate and often re-educate the user and/or caregivers.  Manufacturers we use are pretty clear about their warranties so I hardly think the brands were the issue.  The Scooter Store used deceptive marketing, questionable documentation (putting it lightly) and gave the beneficiary a false sense of security.  Let's not forget they've owed the government MILLIONS---stemming from previous audits, but were never prosecuted.  The goverment IS at fault here for letting this go on longer than it did.