The Wheel Deal?

Amid the confusion felt by Medicare recipients over new rules that went into effect this year, some wheelchair users are experiencing their own bumps in the road.

Due to millions of tax dollars lost to fraudulent claims, Medicare established new interim rules that limit subsidies for power wheelchairs and scooters, making it difficult for some legitimate claimants by adding on extra paperwork. And suppliers claim that they're burdened by some of the new regulations - the multibillion-dollar power mobility industry gets plenty of money from the program. Medicare subsidies — which pay 80 percent of the cost of a motorized wheelchair or a scooter — soared from $289 million in 1999 to more than $1.2 billion in 2003.

In recent years, the industry has been beset with fraudulent claims. Recent FBI investigations in Kansas City, California, Michigan and Texas suggest that hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus billings were filed with Medicare before the reforms. The claims mainly involved power wheelchairs, which cost the program $5,000 compared with $2,000 for scooters. (Kansas City Star)


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