Who's letting whom down now?
When it comes to the portrayal of power wheelchair providers, AAHomecare and the public relations firm Frisby & Associates have decided to fight fire with fire.
It's not uncommon to read stories in the mainstream press about a provider who has let down Medicare and beneficiaries by defrauding the agency out of tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars by billing for power wheelchairs that weren't needed or never delivered. Type "wheelchair and fraud" into Google News on any given day and you're sure to turn up something.
Congress, CMS and other government agencies like the Government Accountability Office (GAO) like to reference these stories when they're lobbying to reduce reimbursement for power wheelchairs or ramp up provider standards and/or documentation requirements.
But it's less common to read stories in the mainstream press about Medicare letting down beneficiaries (not to mention the non-fraudulent providers who end up providing equipment and services for free), even though we all know it happens—a lot.
Good for AAHomecare and Frisby & Associates for highlighting one of those beneficiairies, a man named John, who, despite having no legs and only one "good" arm, can't get a new wheelchair to replace his badly worn out wheelchair. The problem: John has only had his wheelchair for three years and Medicare will only replace wheelchairs after five years. Still, John and his provider, Esta Willman of Medi-Source Equipment & Supply, believed their claim would be approved on appeal due to extenuating circumstances. Instead, Medicare denied the claim and began investigating John for abusing his wheelchair.
AAHomecare and Frisby & Associates told John's story in their "Mobility Matters" bulletin sent to lawmakers last week. They're also sharing the story with the mainstream media. President Michael Frisby e-mailed me on Friday: "We had a radio interview on it yesterday, and we're working on getting some mainstream media."
There's a lot that's gone wrong with the power wheelchair benefit in the past few years, but AAHomecare and Frisby & Associates are trying to let those in charge know it's a knife that cuts both ways.