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How to persuade feds to change wheelchair policy

Update: Commenters offer an idea for grassroots activism at its best! Join the discussion.

Original story: Wheelchair users still can't get Medicare to pay for scooters and chairs unless they're for use "in the home." This ridiculous policy still hasn't changed, although advocates have pressed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services repeatedly.

Earlier this year, CMS revised its wheelchair coverage policy, and had the opportunity to reconsider this restriction.

"However, CMS chose to maintain the 'in the home' rule, making it clear that Medicare will not cover wheelchairs that many beneficiaries need to live independently and access their communities."

The ITEM Coalition (ITEM stands for "Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid") is asking folks to participate in its "Access to Mobility Call-In Day." Throughout the day, individuals are encouraged to call their Senators and Representatives and ask them to support efforts to improve access to mobility devices for people with disabilities.

Call 1-877-224-0041 (TOLL FREE). Ask the Capitol Operator to connect you to your Senators and Representatives to ask them to support efforts to improve access to mobility devices for people with disabilities.

You can also send an online letter to your Representatives and Senators here -- and visit www.rightwheelchair.org for more info on this campaign.


It just occurred to me how we could illustrate how ridiculous this policy is. Let's find a wheelchair user who is homeless (sadly, not that difficult a task). That way, his or her "home" is the street, and Medicare would (theoretically) have to come across with a wheelchair for use in the street - thereby setting a precedent for everybody else!

Yeah, yeah, I know, they'd find some way to weasel out of it. But wouldn't it be fun to watch them try?

Mark Romoser
Honolulu, HI

Mark R. wrote,

Let's find a wheelchair user who is homeless... his or her "home" is the street, and Medicare would ... have to come across with a wheelchair for use in the street...

That's a great idea! It could be a wonderful grassroots media campaign. Direct action at its best! One person in every major city -- be sure to plan the media, do the news releases, hold a news conference, have the homelesss person (people) there.... Be sure to let us know about it here at Ragged Edge if you start organizing this. Or if others do. We want to know about it!

That's brilliant....watching them spin and spin and then realize they haven't a choice in the matter...

I want to see the guidelines: "Homeless exceptions" "Open Air Housing" "The Open Air Exception in no way limits cancels changes or otherwise alter's Medicare's present 'In the Home' exception" or other such nonsense.

A can't seem to locate a date for call in day. Did I miss it in the article or is it not yet planned?

National Call-In Day was Oct. 6 -- see www.rightwheelchair.org/news/archive.php?id=6322 but you can sign up at www.rightwheelchair.org/get_involved.php to learn about future actions and keep up with the issue.

Define Home or Lack thereof. Is home not where you reside? (Could that not be in a group home, mental institution or on the corner of Hollywood & Vine)?

NEED is the issue...

Here is an idea--what if we got the manufacturers to build chairs that are built for both indoor and outdoor use? If that is what they are building, that is what is available so coverage would allow for these to be purchased under Medicare or Medicaid. Also, there are nearly 80 million boomers coming through--many of them will need assistance with mobility and will want to access the community. Perhaps AARP could be brought into the lobbying process. There are many ways to skin this cat.

This may sound ludicrous but what if each and every user of a wheelchair sued Medicare for discrimination and unlawful detention, or manadating house arrest without justification or violating the ADA (there's a concept, no?) Provided, of course, we could get an attorney to take on our plight. Or has this been tried already?

I'm game, anyone else?
Just brainstorming here...

Yes, we who are mobility challenged all know what an absurd rule this is, and yes, it is without question a violation of the ADA. Not only do we need wheelchairs and scooters to shop, work, visit, and worship, we all know that the most difficult thing to make people understand is that the fact that you can walk this morning does not mean that you will be able to do so this afternoon. Unfortunately, federal agencies are exempt from suit for this type of violation.

The one thing that I have thought of that might work is a massive letter writing campaign to every newspaper in the country explaining how Medicare's unreasonable rule prevents you from worshiping at the church of your choice. It won't work for one person in each town to do it, we ALL have to do it. I'm up for it if the rest of you are.

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