Wheelchair demo gets off ground

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

WASHINGTON - The wheelchair voucher demonstration, which was set to take off last summer, is now getting off the ground, because CMS has had bigger fish to fry.

CMS has granted four Centers for Independent Living (CIL) $150,000 to school beneficiaries on how to chose a wheelchair and how to negotiate its price. It then directed the centers to provide beneficiaries with a voucher to purchase a wheelchair from a provider.

But industry sources said the three-year demo - dubbed the consumer-directed DME demonstration - has been slow to take off, because CMS has been grappling with issues like competitive bidding. The CILs are now getting off the ground.

“We’ve started recruiting participants,” said Dennis Fitzgibbons, director of operations for the Portland, Maine-based Alpha One, one of the CILs.

Fitzgibbons said Alpha One plans to advertise the program on its Web site - www.alpha-one.org - as well as in its company newsletter. He said the organization also plans to develop a flyer to distribute to beneficiaries and a letter to distribute to physicians, and occupational and physical therapists. He said the organization hopes to run 25 beneficiaries through the program in its first year.

“I think once we get going, things will start rolling pretty fast,” Fitzgibbons said.

Fitzgibbons said he could not give specifics on how Alpha One plans to educate beneficiaries, or whether it will encourage them to use the Internet, because the organization still needs to have its curriculum approved by CMS. HME