Opinion: Listen: Wheelchair users and Medicare disagree on what’s ‘primarily medical in nature’

Modern wheelchairs have amazing capabilities. At the push of a button, they can position a user in a “standing” position, or elevate someone to eye level with a non-disabled person. It’s game-changing for wheelchair users who are looking to take care of themselves independently whenever they can. Standing technology promotes healthy circulation to avoid blood clots and bed sores, and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, urinary tract infections, and more.

This week on the “First Opinion Podcast,” two wheelchair users, Paul Amadeus Lane and Jim Meade, talk about how shortsighted it is that Medicare — the primary health insurer for older adults as well as for many people with spinal cord injuries, muscular dystrophy, ALS, and other long-term disabilities — doesn’t cover the cost of wheelchairs equipped with these technologies because they aren’t “primarily medical in nature.”

Lane began using a wheelchair after a spinal cord injury in 1993. Meade has lived with muscular dystrophy for decades, which eventually robbed him of the ability to walk.


“Contrary to popular belief, we don’t like having people do stuff for us. We want to do it ourselves,” Lane said. “If we can do it, let us do it. All these different technologies allow us to do so.”

Our conversation stems from their First Opinion essay, “Medicare needs to update its wheelchair coverage for the 21st century.”


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Source: STAT