What's the tipping point?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - If consumers who are members of large and deep-pocketed organizations like the AARP put their voices behind the campaign to modify the in-the-home restriction, it would put "strong pressure" on Medicare and legislators, industry sources say.
So why hasn't that happened yet? "It's unclear why we're not seeing a public outcry," said Laura Cohen co-coordinator of The Clinician Task Force, which is part of the Coalition to Modernize Medical Coverage of Mobility Devices. "Have beneficiaries not been hit by this yet? Are they not recognizing the impact? Or has nobody been harmed?"
Several organizations, working under the umbrella of the ITEM Coalition, a Washington D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, are trying to find out. The organizations are soliciting personal stories from Medicare beneficiaries about their experiences trying to get the "right wheelchair."
(The organizations argue that the in-the-home restriction prevents qualified beneficiaries from getting mobility devices for use outside the home. If a beneficiary can function at home with a manual wheelchair but needs a power wheelchair to go to work, for example, Medicare only pays for a manual.)
The personal stories should go a long way to help the organizations raise awareness among consumers and legislators of the injustice of the restriction, Cohen said.
"There's a lot of talk out there about people being harmed by this restriction, but no consumers have been identified as being harmed," she said. "We're looking for those consumers."