Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Pssst! Wanna Buy a Used Wheelchair?"

No Wheelchair weather in Missouri
Being a professional wheelchair jockey, I take time to read and subscribe to newsletters covering what's new in the rolling world. Here's a snippet from the most recent Peopleonwheels.org newsletter, one discussing a so-called black market in wheelchairs.
It's not uncommon for wheelchair users or their family members to take out classified ads in local newspapers to sell wheelchairs they no longer need. It is uncommon for HME providers to take out ads to buy them.

On Jan. 1, Medicare plans to start paying for standard power wheelchairs over 13 months instead of in one lump sum in the first month, a move that providers say will put them in a cash-flow crunch.
The way industry sources see it, the providers who are taking out the ads plan to buy used wheelchairs for $500 instead of new wheelchairs for $900 to $1,500 and provide those to beneficiaries.

"I can understand that providers are going to look for ways to lower their upfront costs," said Tom Kruse, founder and CEO of Hoveround in Sarasota, Fla., one of the largest providers of standard power wheelchairs in the country. "Maybe buying used wheelchairs will be a viable way to do that because there are quite a few of them out there and they're pretty reasonably priced."
What's the big deal, anyway? For starters, the ads have made used power wheelchairs a hot commodity, resulting in an up-tick in the number of thefts in California, industry sources say. 
I bought my most recent power wheelchair in late 2008, and I gave away my trusty Li'l Red, wheelchair number seven in the fleet that has carried me for a half-century. I guess I could have made a few bucks if I held onto it and shipped it to California. That reminds me of a local guy who began buying up assorted MoPar muscle cars about twenty years ago -- Chargers, Barracudas, Roadrunners, etc. He made a bank-full of money shipping them to California, the car capital of the nation.

While no one can deny that Medicare and Medicaid spend too much money and could use an administration based on logic and getting the most from every dollar spent, this sort of counter-productive regulation reminds me of a period about fifteen or twenty years ago when it was impossible to buy support hose, a necessary convenience for someone who sits all day, without a physician's prescription.

No matter how I considered that decision I could never understand its logic. Why should it be impossible for a person to walk -- or roll -- into a medical supply shop and buy a pair of pressure hose? It's not like the socks are addictive.

I do know that when the pressure socks were under prescription the price rose to nearly thirty-five or forty dollars a pair. Now anyone -- yes, you too, not only us elitists! -- can buy the same pair for about twenty-five dollars.

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