Groups Fight Medicare Restriction On iBot Funding
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 21, 2006
WASHINGTON, DC--Disability groups have joined Johnson & Johnson in fighting a Medicare proposal that would seriously limit payments for the company's iBot Mobility System.
According to Bloomberg financial news service, 70 nonprofit organizations, including the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and the National Spinal Cord Injury Association, are asking the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reconsider the $5,300 limit the agency plans to pay for the wheelchair, which helps the user stand upright, climb stairs and curbs, and run over rough terrain.
Under the proposal, users would have to pay the remainder of the $26,100 price tag for the iBot. Because Medicare has not covered the cost of the iBot, only 1,000 have been purchased in the U.S. since it was introduced three years ago.
J&J wants the federal agency to create a new category for "mobility systems" like the iBot and other wheelchairs that climb stairs and run off-road because the current rules only allow Medicare to cover equipment needed to help users eat or bathe in their own homes, Bloomberg noted. CMS, which is trying to cut costs, rejected that idea in April.
The iBot was created by inventor Dean Kamen, who has become more famous for his Segway Human Transporter. The wheelchair is equipped with gyroscopes and computer technology that allows it to stay balanced while the user guides it up and down stairs. Its wheels lock down in such a way that the user can come to a complete standing position.
Some groups argue that treating the iBot differently from other wheelchairs would be a form of discrimination because only people who have some upper body strength can use it.
Medicare officials are to present their final ruling on iBot funding in late October.
"J&J's $26,100 Wheelchair Bumps Up Against U.S. Health Budget" (Bloomberg)
iBot Official Site