Among the many absurdities in the US system of health insurance, the rules that govern what is and isn’t “medically necessary” stand out. Advanced prosthetic limbs that support balance, mobility, independence, and mental health don’t fit the definition. Neither do many power wheelchairs that provide the same benefits.
In the last couple of years, the Amputee Coalition, other disability advocates, and Congressional allies have made serious progress toward overturning some of these nonsensical rules. The latest is an effort to get advanced power-wheelchair technology classified as a covered benefit under Medicare. Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) opened a process to modify coverage definitions for wheelchair seat-elevation systems. However, the CMS omitted power standing systems from consideration.
Now a bloc of nearly 100 advocacy organizations for people with disabilities, backed by a bipartisan group of 22 US senators led by Tammy Duckworth (the only amputee currently serving in the Senate), is lobbying CMS to correct that mistake—and you can help make it happen.
The 22 senators sent CMS a formal request last week to expand its coverage analysis to include power standing systems. “We believe the medical evidence is clear that both power seating elevation systems and power standing systems are significantly medically beneficial for patients in need,” they wrote in their letter. Meanwhile, the Independence Through Enhancement of Medicare and Medicaid (ITEM) coalition has established a website to elevate the voices of amputees and other members of the disability community. “Public support from wheelchair users, physicians, other health care providers, caregivers, and organizations is critical to secure affirmative coverage,” notes the Amputee Coalition, which sits on ITEM’s Steering Committee.
Achieving these changes will require a lot of shoulders behind the boulder. To add yours, log on at rise4access.org, where you can sign petitions, connect with other advocates, and receive updates about future initiatives.