Docs, and feds, should give scooters the boot

Tuesday, April 2, 2013
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When it comes to government waste, fraud and abuse, it’s hard to imagine a more irritating story than the one in last Friday’s Gazette about all those motorized scooters and wheelchairs that seniors and others with mobility problems are buying, it seems, not because they need them so much as Medicare will pay for them.

According to government inspectors cited in the Associated Press report, Medicare is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on these devices every year, and up to 80 percent of them aren’t medically necessary: The people could easily use a cane, walker or regular wheelchair.

The problem is their doctors: They’re all too willing to give in to patients who’ve been convinced by the ads on TV that they can’t get around without one, when this is not really the case. After all, fighting with patients takes time — something in short supply with busy doctors — and a patient who’s denied by one doc might simply shop for another to get what he or she is after. It’s the same mentality that encourages docs to prescribe medications for patients who don’t need them, but who’ve seen ads for them and are convinced that they do.

According to AP’s story, the two largest manufacturers of so-called mobility scooters spent close to $200 million last year, hawking them on TV, radio and in print media, and their ads often point out that Medicare or other insurance will cover their cost. In February, federal Health and Human Services agents raided one of the biggest manufacturers, seizing records they believe will show that doctors are being pressured into overprescribing the vehicles.

The companies are just businesses trying to increase sales; but doctors, of all people, should know better than to give in to someone whose condition might actually improve if they were forced to get some exercise.

The feds are right to launch a crackdown, but they need to focus on doctors as well as the manufacturers.

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April 2, 2013
8:09 a.m.
muggy says...

The patient should be allowed to purchase the devices they want. Of course, that system doesn't exist right now. Most of what a patient wants is paid for by a 3rd party. So there's no examination of the need vs. cost by the user. But if we listen to people like Dr. Ben Carson, we would be free to use some of our accumulated life-long medical savings account to purchase whatever we wanted for our own healthcare needs. There are limited resources. Therefore the use and abuse of those precious resources are reduced when the patient competes with private providers for equipment and care. Quality goes up. Cost goes down. It's called capitalism. We have socialized medicine, thus the editorials like this one talking about the evil of "increased sales" and with words like "crackdowns." Has anyone talked about the concepts of injecting some liberty into the healthcare discussions?

April 2, 2013
2:19 p.m.
wmarincic says...

Muggy, it is a Gazette Editorial, you have a lot of nerve expecting common sense.

April 2, 2013
7:36 p.m.
albright1 says...

Gazette....why do you hate seniors and people with mobility problems?

April 3, 2013
6:19 a.m.
tonijean613 says...

Muggy- what planet are you on? America has the only Capitalist Medical/Health System- every single agency providing you care from doctors to hospitals are FOR PROFIT-
Do you even know what the word Socialized Medicine means? Have you heard of Canada?
They are next door. You probably also do not know that most all "Socialized" medicine countries have lower healthcare costs and better health and longevity and lower infant mortality rates than the USA. Do some research- the internet makes it very easy if you dont personally know people from these countries who can tell you about their health systems which are NOT FOR PROFIT cover all their citizens and is better.

April 4, 2013
7:26 a.m.
wmarincic says...

I grew up 31 miles from Canada for almost half of my life, I know dozens of Canadians and their families. Not one has ever spoken well of their medical system when they needed it. Most come to Watertown or Syracuse for their major medical care.

April 4, 2013
2:47 p.m.
gazettereader says...

I grew up in Schenectady where friends had to travel to Canada for healthcare because it was still less expensive than the US system. We're all hoping the Affordable Health Care Act will finally bring affordable health care to the United States.

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