What's happening to power wheelchairs?
Medicare and Medicaid insurances are making reliable mobility a thing of the past. Reimbursement levels have gotten so low that wheelchair manufacturers have to cut corners in every possible way to produce a wheelchair that will be reimbursed. When I go to the Abilities Expos and see what the major manufacturers are producing today all I can do is shake my head. I closely follow many bulletin boards and read the nightmares people are having with their new chairs.
Being a power wheelchair user for twelve years this frustrates and angers me to no end. When I was first injured I was on Medicare and Medicaid. I got the best possible wheelchair that was fundable at the time and spent seven miserable years in a chair that would get stuck on my front lawn, I spent as long a three months frequently waiting for replacement parts. After getting more involved in the disabled community I find this to be a common story; A wheelchair that is worn out after three years of use and continuously in need of repair for many years before the user is eligible to have the chair replaced.
How are we expected to live a life that's active and productive if we don't have reliable mobility? I live in a rural area with no wheelchair transportation. I have to travel on the side of the road in the sand or snow for several miles before I'm in the village where I reach the sidewalks. The sidewalks of course have no curb cuts and have to be climbed by my chair or ride in the road.
I was fortunate to have married and was able to be added to my wife's insurance. This afforded me the ability to get a wheelchair that will travel through soft sand, climb curbs and travel through deep snow. I'm now able to safely travel to work regardless of the road conditions. I would not have been able to do this safely and easily with my choice of chairs under the Medicaid or Medicare funding limits. I would be sitting at home, being homebound for five months a year due to the snow in the winter and mud in the spring.
The disabled community that lives in cities at least has wheelchair transportation. I was chatting with a group of disabled power wheelchair users at the Boston Abilities Expo where they have a transportation system. I was waiting for my wife who was lost in traffic and the group I was chatting with was waiting for busses that were over an hour late. I guess having transportation is better then being homebound but chronically late transportation would make employment very difficult for me.
I guess the point I'm long winded at making is that we need our Medicaid and Medicare funding limits at least doubled. Wheelchair manufacturers can manufacturer incredible chairs that can easily and safely travel all types of terrains and climate conditions with the technology they have if they could get reimbursed for them. How many times have you been stuck trying to get to the bus stop in the snow, or had to stay home? How many days have you been homebound because of a broken wheelchair? How many times have you had to ask a stranger to help you because your wheelchair is stuck or having mechanical problems? I see so many people in my area whose lives will never be lived to their full potential because of their mobility, not their disability! It's a pathetic situation that has to come to an end. But How!