More than 450,000 people in the US are living with a spinal cord injury, and permanent paralysis.
Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is defined as damage to the spinal cord resulting in a loss of function such as mobility or feeling. More than 10,000 people in the US experience a spinal cord injury every year, with the majority being men between the ages of 16-30. Quadriplegia is slightly more common [and more serious] than paraplegia in spinal cord injuries.
According to a study initiated by the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, worldwide nearly 1 in 50 people are living with paralysis — approximately 6 million people. That’s the same number of people as the combined populations of Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
This means that we all know someone — a brother, sister, friend, neighbor, or colleague — who is living with paralysis.
People who have Spinal Cord Injury often depend on a variety of medical equipment including catheters, continence care products, respiratory devices, braces, orthotic devices, wheelchairs, rolling walkers and other medical supplies.
That’s why it is so important for people who have Spinal Cord Injury to be able to get the medical supplies and equipment they need. And, that’s also why Medicare reform mistakes are having such a life-altering impact on nearly one-half million Americans who have SCI.
Bert Burns is a C6-7 quadriplegic, Paralympic athlete and the founder of LASCI, a peer support program for people who are newly injured. Like Bert, nearly 1/2-million people with spinal cord injury across the US are being hurt by Medicare reform mistakes.
There are three major areas of concern related to Medicare reform mistakes and Spinal Cord Injury:
Access to care & related medical supplies
Quality of care delivered
Choice in care options
Medicare reform mistakes have impacted the local availability and/or repair process for the following types of medical equipment that are commonly used by people who have Spinal Cord Injury.
CPAP Devices and Respiratory Assist Devices
Standard (Power & Manual) Wheelchairs, Scooters, and Related Accessories
Enteral Nutrients, Equipment and Supplies
Support Surfaces (Group 2 mattresses and overlays)
Hospital Beds (used in the home)
Walkers and Related Accessories
Negative Pressure Wound Therapy Pumps and Related Supplies
How Medicare Changed the Process of Wheelchair Repairs
Perhaps the most hurtful mistake made during the current Medicare reform process is one that limits the ability of people who use wheelchairs to get their mobility equipment delivered or repaired in a reasonable, timely fashion.
Since April 2013, a joint taskforce of consumers, clinicians, and providers has been monitoring problems with Medicare beneficiary access to power mobility device (PMD) repairs. These issues have been reported, multiple times, to Medicare/CMS.
Instead of fixing these problems, Medicare made access to mobility equipment like wheelchairs even more difficult by expanding the competitive bidding program and adding face-to-face regulations.
Medicare’s new face-to-face regulations are requiring people — who have been previously diagnosed with permanent paralysis — to go to the doctor to prove they still have SCI before they can purchase or repair their wheelchair.
Medicare has also redefined many wheelchair accessories and/or common mobility equipment as rental items rather than a purchased item. This means you could own your power chair, but be forced to rent the motor that powers it.
The complicated and contradictory rules associated with this Medicare reform mistake have made repairing mobility equipment and replacing parts nearly impossible.
How this Medicare reform mistake hurts people with Spinal Cord Injury:
People who use wheelchairs depend on their mobility equipment for personal independence, physical fitness and the ability to take part in everyday life. When Medicare reform mistakes keep people from being able to purchase or repair their wheelchairs, their physical health isn’t the only area of their life that is negatively impacted.
Without a working wheelchair, many people with spinal cord injury are confined to their house. For someone like Bert, who is wheelchair-dependent, life comes to a standstill without it. The social and mental toll this takes on an individual’s emotional health is extreme.
Imagine not being able to leave your house. Imagine not being able to get out of bed.
All because your health insurance provider, Medicare, has made it nearly impossible to get the mobility equipment you need. This Medicare reform mistake doesn’t help people in need. It hurts them – physically, emotionally and socially.
What Can You Do?
Please take 5 minutes to TAKE ACTION by sending an email through our quick and easy tool.
Your email will ask your Congressional representatives to help protect millions of Americans with severe disabilities by putting a stop to Medicare reform mistakes. We do all the legwork for you – all we need is for you to click the button!
So if you have Spinal Cord Injury, or love someone who does, don’t wait.