Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Medicare Often Overpays For Wheelchairs, Durable Medical Equipment
(Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Sun-Sentinel: Medicare continues to pay high prices often three times the cost on the private market for power wheelchairs and other high-cost equipment. "As for the prices, the government is well aware that Medicare often pays too much. The Medicare reimbursement rate for wheelchairs ranges from $490 to $1,750 for the 13-month rental period, depending on the type of chair. Medicare cannot quantify how much it has overpaid, but the potential is enormous. In 2009 alone, Medicare spent $188 million on manual wheelchairs and more than $8 billion on other 'durable medical equipment,' including hospital beds, walkers and oxygen tanks. Federal auditors have documented waste in that category of expenses for more than a decade." Although the Medicare program cannot "quantify how much it has overpaid," the possibility is quite significant. The difficulties in the reimbursement rates are further complicated by the fact that durable medical goods are an area that is often a target for fraudulent activities. "Beginning in January, Medicare will switch to a competitive bidding system that will replace the fee schedules in some areas of the country, including central and South Florida. Suppliers had to bid on prices to get Medicare business, a change that will reduce costs by an average of 32 percent" (Kestin, 11/29).
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