Help with Medicare Is an E-mail Away
Medicare’s volumes of red tape can make beneficiaries feel like tiny gears in a huge, convoluted and ever-grinding machine.
That’s especially true for Medicare patients who use durable medical equipment (DME) like walkers, commodes, scooters or wheelchairs, or complex rehab technology equipment (e.g., custom-fit or -built wheelchairs or positioning systems such as tilt or recline).
Lisa Wells, president of Get Social Consulting, knows what problems Medicare beneficiaries face. She operates SaveMyMedicalSupplies.org (SMMS), a program created by the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) and supported by organizations including the National Council on Independent Living and United Spinal Association.
“More than 10 years ago, Congress kicked off an effort to reform Medicare — with the goal of saving money — by passing the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003,” Wells told The Mobility Project.
“Since then, Medicare reform efforts specifically relating to the distribution and payment for medical equipment and supplies have largely taken place through a program known as competitive bidding.
“While ‘competitive bidding’ sounds great, the phrase is a euphemism for reform efforts that are intentionally changing the way that beneficiaries get home medical equipment or medical supplies from medical supply companies. Serious problems have emerged with the way that Medicare is rolling out its reform efforts across the country.”
That’s where SMMS comes in. Go to the Web site and you’ll find educational articles that “explain the medical supplies and equipment affected by Medicare reform,” Wells said. Visitors can search under conditions such as cerebral palsy, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, spina bifida and spinal cord injury.
As a real-life example of a beneficiary who has worked with SMMS, Wells pointed to Suzanne Vilchez, who has a spinal cord injury and lives in College Point, N.Y.
“Congress needs to understand that the needs of the disabled are different from the elderly,” Vilchez said. “With the right DME and medical supplies, a disabled person can live interdependently, be employed and contribute to Medicare, be healthy and not need medical attention other than an annual physical, just like everyone else who lives on their own.
“My wheelchair provides me with mobility and independence. Power-assist wheels afford me increased access in multiple types of terrain and prevent postsecondary injury to my arms and hands. Unfortunately, Medicare requires you to go to their assigned DME provider [to get wheelchair repairs] regardless of the equipment provider’s repair competency, history or qualification. [Their] bureaucracy causes delays, which is akin to disabling the mobility-impaired. They are immobilized if their wheelchair does not work.”
SMMS was created, Wells said, to help people like Vilchez by giving visitors a quick, easy way to share concerns with Congress.
“Please take five minutes to send an e-mail through SaveMyMedicalSupplies.org’s quick and easy tool,” Wells said. “Your e-mail will ask your Congressional representatives to help protect millions of Americans like Suzanne who use medical equipment and supplies. SMMS does all the legwork by creating the letter and identifying your representatives based on your ZIP code. All we need is for you to click the Take Action button!”