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The AARP strikes again

The AARP strikes again

A few blogs back, I wrote about the AARP's support of national competitive bidding. In an editorial in its November bulletin, the AARP delivers another blow to the HME industry, this time specifically to power wheelchairs.

"The Case of the Expensive Wheelchair" reads like a greatest hits of the criticism hurled at the power wheelchair industry in the past year:

  • Utilization: In 1997, Medicare and Medicare beneficiaries paid just over $100 million to buy or lease power wheelchairs; today they pay more than $1 billion.
  • The recent OIG report: The OIG has examined thousands of vouchers and invoices for wheelchairs and reported that the average annual cost to Medicare in 2007 was $4,018, nearly four times the $1,048 paid by suppliers. For more elaborate power wheelchairs, the average Medicare allowance was $11,507, almost twice the $5,880 price paid by suppliers. The 9.5% cut that went into effect Jan. 1 brought the average payment down to $3,641 in 2009, still three times the price paid by suppliers.
  • A quote from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa. "At a time when every health care dollar counts, it's infuriating to lean that the government is throwing away money and is still overpaying for power wheelchairs. This translates into hundreds of millions of dollars wasted and cost beneficiaries millions of dollars in copayments. it's only common sense that you don't pay more for something than is on the price tag."

It was hard for me to take the editorial seriously. If you saw the editorial in the bulletin (not online), it featured a picture of the equipment in question. Too bad it's a picture of a scooter and not a power wheelchair.

Liz Beaulieu


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