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Medicare policies complicate aging-in-place strategies

December 14, 2012
by Pamela Tabar, Associate Editor
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More seniors are choosing to age in their own homes rather than in formal long-term care settings, but some Medicare policies seem to be undermining those efforts.

Ten years of regulations and policy changes have shaken the home medical equipment industry, key providers of assistance equipment like adjustable beds, wheelchairs and portable oxygen systems.

Power wheelchairs have caused problems for both the elderly consumer and the equipment companies. Inconsistent processes for documentation of medical need have complicated Medicare beneficiaries’ ability to obtain a power wheelchair in the first place. Meanwhile, medical equipment companies are still struggling with a 2009 Medicare policy that changed the mobility benefit from a purchase-based program to a rental program. The switch rocked an industry whose business was surging, yet where the financial business model had to be rebuilt around the concept of monthly rental payments instead of a single closed-ended sale.

"There is obviously a contradiction in CMS policies," said Tyler Wilson, CEO and president of the American Association for Homecare, in a release. "States are being allowed to adopt home and community treatment programs, but Medicare patients continue to face new hurdles in receiving home medical equipment, such as power wheelchairs, that help them stay in their homes. We need smart and consistent healthcare polices."

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