What's the first-month purchase option worth to you?


The industry seeks to delay a provision in the healthcare reform bill that would eliminate the first-month purchase option for standard power wheelchairs in exchange for a 1% reduction in the consumer price index-urban (CPI-U) update.

That seems reasonable.

“I think it’s a fair trade-off,” said Tim Pederson, chairman of AAHomecare's Complex Rehab and Mobility Council (CRMC) and CEO of WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D. “It’s a small enough cut that it’s not going to have a major impact on the way we do business. In the past, we’ve had reimbursement cuts and gotten nothing in return. At least, here, we’re getting something.”

Per the provision, currently slated to go into effect Jan. 1, 2011, CMS would space out its payments for standard power wheelchairs over 13 months: It would pay 15% in months one through three and 6% in months four through 13.

The delay is needed, stakeholders argue, to give providers time to adapt their business models (they’re used to receiving reimbursement in one lump sum at the time of purchase) and to give the credit market time to, hopefully, loosen up (the recession and reimbursement cuts have made banks hesitant to lend money to providers, making it difficult for them to buy equipment).

A lot of providers, though, want the provision to go away forever.

“When you get into the daily grind of implementing something like this, a lot of problems crop up,” said Tyrrell Hunter, president of Majors Mobility in Tospham, Maine. “To repair and recondition and re-rent power wheelchairs, which are different and expensive, and to have the space to keep half a dozen of them around—it may sound good on paper, but it doesn’t work out in the field.”

First step's first, though.

“Hopefully, the economy will recover and we’re expecting a big shake-up in Washington this fall, so we’ll evaluate the situation next year,” said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products. “But the important thing right now is to build support for a delay.”

Liz Beaulieu