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SSD and mobility issues: power wheelchairs and scooters under scrutiny

There are a host of medical conditions that can greatly restrict someone's mobility. Some of them are so severe that they are disabling. For these people, in Michigan and across the country, Social Security disability benefits may be available.

There may also be assistance available from Medicare on paying for a power wheelchair or scooter. Government regulators have recently become concerned, however, that motorized device industry has pushed its products too aggressively - and that Medicare has paid for such devices for people who don't really need

The concern is not only about possible Medicare fraud. There is also a health concern. After all, too much use of motorized wheelchairs and scooters can result in a lifestyle that is too sedentary. And an overly sedentary lifestyle can make problem with obesity and various health disorders worse.

For some people, though, motorized devices offer a chance to get around and participate more fully in life activities than would otherwise be possible given their physical challenges. That is why Medicare regulations allow for reimbursement for power wheelchairs or scooters when seniors are not able to use lower-tech options, such as a regular wheelchair, walker or cane.

But the motorized device industry is big business, with a market of about $1 billion in annual sales for scooters and power wheelchairs. And this industry has been aggressively lobbying both patients and their doctors to promote the use of the devices.

At a time of federal budget austerity, this has led to suspicions in Congress that Medicare is spending money on power wheelchairs and scooters for many people who don't really qualify for them.

Government investigators are looking with particular scrutiny at the marketing tactics of two large companies, the Scooter Store and Hoveround. These two private companies make up nearly 70 percent of the scooter market in the U.S.

Source: "Scooter Ads Face Scrutiny From Government, Doctors," Claims Journal, Matthew Perrone, 3-29-13

To learn more about our practice, please visit our page on Social Security disability.

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