Calculating the cost of health care is an important part of retirement planning. If you think that's easy, you haven't looked at Medicare regulations recently.
Many people living in retirement love their motorized wheelchairs because they provide so much freedom of movement, but since Jan. 1, getting a new electric-powered wheelchair has been a lot more difficult.
Previously, users of these wheelchairs got them free of charge; after they paid Medicare a small copay, they owned them outright. But beginning this month, Medicare requires equipment providers to essentially rent the wheelchairs to patients over a 13-month period. At the end of that time, if a patient still meets the requirements for needing and using the chair, he can keep the equipment with Medicare paying most of the maintenance costs. But if sometime during that 13-month period, the Medicare recipient is confined to a nursing home or moves in with a relative or otherwise switches residences, he will probably lose the chair because the provider is required to repossess it. If the chair is repossessed, the user must reapply -- an arduous process -- to get another chair
The American Association for Homecare argues that these new Medicare rules defy common sense and make it difficult for suppliers to offer power wheelchairs at Medicare-approved rates. The chairs have to be especially modified to meet the needs of an individual user, so the idea that they can be repossessed and then reused by somebody else is very impractical.
Because suppliers are fearful that spreading the payments over 13 months will mean that they won't be paid the entire price of the chair, some are modifying their payment policies. They are requiring Medicare recipients to pay upfront for the chairs and be reimbursed themselves over 13 months. While this might not be a problem for some affluent Medicare recipients, it is a huge burden for average people because the chairs cost as much as $6,000.
If you believe this Medicare regulation should be repealed, let your congressman or congresswoman know what you think.