Sunday, November 25, 2007

On the busiest travel day of the year....

...I'm sitting here thinking about mobility advocacy.

We need it. I'm not sure I've heard it called that per se so let me define what I'm talking about.

Broadly stated, we need advocacy so that more people with disabilities can have the mobility we need to live independent lives. This includes universal design and implementation of the ADA and access laws so that we have physical access to our environments and communities- and travel. We also need to advocate for better mobility equipment that is more cost-efficient. People are falling through the cracks - and that's not okay.

I understand that manufacturers of wheelchairs and other mobility devices have set their prices based on years of an established system. However, in light of insurance denials, manufacturers need to find ways to bring the prices down so that people can afford equipment. Since baby boomers are coming of age, we need to advocate to work this situation to our advantage. More consumers should equal lower prices - and perhaps more of an interest in developing products for private pay customers - or reluctant insurers. This is in the best interest of all parties. In all fairness, I know that manufacturers are aware of this situation and some are already developing lower cost wheelchairs. Others are in the process of doing it.

No one here is a bad guy because we're all in the process of change. But let's talk about insurers. Insurers need to consider being more flexible. Rather than offer a consumer a useless 30 pound wheelchair when he/she needs an ultralight wheelchair, why not offer the consumer partial payment toward the item? This would encourage people to shop around and get better prices and save money. I can understand insurers balking at paying the cost of some of these items and yet insurance is an empty promise if claims are 100% denied on the products we need. It's not operating in good faith to do that because people need these products to work, get out in their communities and live independent lives.

Along these same lines, we also have to make sure that the products offered don't sacrifice our ability to get out of our houses and Medicare and other insurers don't assume products that limit us that way fulfill their obligation to us as claimants. Some wheelchairs only work effectively in the home. These products are not a solution and in fact are dangerous. Why? Because they appear to satisfy our needs but fall far short. Like car owners, wheelchair users need regulations to ensure we get the products we need and the performance we want.

So as I sit and watch pictures of airports full of travelers, I smile. They may complain that it's too busy and traveling is a pain. But mobility is precious. And as glad as many will be to get back home, they sure wouldn't choose to be stuck in their living room.

And none of our brothers and sisters in the disability community should have to face that either.


Wheelchair Dancer said...

And why oh why is it cheaper to buy wheelchairs on the web... sometimes over a third cheaper?

Thanks, Ruth. This gets at the heart of the issue. Travel is only a part of mobility ... personal mobility is such a HUGE issue.

Unknown said...

You have a bunch of old ghosts in this one. By the way, wheelchairs are cheaper on the web for a number of reasons. Less overhead than brick and mortar stores. Greater volume than a local DME. And, on occasion- some parts that might not be original manufacturer. Of course, no support at the local level if you need it. All adds up to less cost.

The issues are old, getting worse, and at times immovable. I have worked with a number of NFP Orgs on these issue with quite similar and consistent results. We can almost always muster a number of clinicians and a number of hardcore advocates that will support the effort. You know, write letters and muster the troops. What we can never seem to do is get the wheelchair users engaged.

The general public is also very tough to engage on these mobility issues. Try and explain Medicare and Medicaid policies to the public??? Better yet try and explain to Josephine Public that a wheelchair is not a wheelchair is not ... This all bodes ill and has the smell of disaster all over it.

Want to try something? Let's put a link to a blank letter form on our blogs and have wheelchair users who are having problems (any kind) fill in their story. When they enter their address it will automatically send an email letter to their senators, congressman, as well as send them a fax. Let's see how many people are up for it.

No problem doing this. I can get use of the technology anytime.

Ruth said...

WCD- Thanks for the positive feedback!

I would like to try doing that. Making a form available is a great idea.

I'm receiving an increasing report of insurance denials from people and can direct them to the form - to take action.

Thanks for your valuable feedback on your experiences with this issue. It helps pinpoint where action needs to be taken.