Discrimination against wheelchair users Imprisons them in their Homes.

United States
August 30, 2007 9:39pm CST
Your freedom is being Threatened. By the time the American's with Disabilities Act passed in 1990, I had been fighting for accessible facilities and services for disabled individuals for 13 years. Frankly, I got more for disabled people before the ADA passed, because I negotiated using humanitarian and logical arguments. Anyone who works intimately with social-interest laws knows that: laws are not always functional for the purpose they are drawn to address; laws can be corrupted, perverted and misrepresented; laws often end up helping the special interests they are supposed to protect us from; laws often limit rather than enhance. The American's with Disabilities Act is a law that was written to be clarified by litigation. However, overwhelming and frivolous litigation and too little clout against special interests allowed the courts to erode the protections that disabled people were promised. 9-11 further diminished the effectiveness of the ADA by making Homeland Security a priority over civil rights. So, in 2005 a law was passed that was written to distinguish between Medicare in-patients and Medicare services for those who had exited in-patient facilities. The original intent of the "in the home" language was to define durable medical equipment (DME) as devices that were provided outside of a hospital or skilled nursing facility (as opposed to inside) and therefore, warranted separate reimbursement under Medicare Part B, rather than Part A. However, Medicare now chooses to ignore the original intent of the law and interpret the language to restrict coverage of mobility devices to only those that are necessary inside the individual's home. This is illogical. Disabled access does not and should not end at the door. But, tragically, the wording of this law is now being used to limit all disabled people who use wheelchairs, and confine them inside their homes, because all payers (including Medicaid and private insurers) consider Medicare as the coverage and payment trend setter. Therefore, a disabled person may no longer qualify for the same kind of wheelchair that he/she has today and needs for tomorrow, exclusively because Medicare only pays for wheelchairs needed to function inside the four walls of your home -- not outside. The "in the home" rule severely restricts the independence of people with disabilities by preventing them from participating in their community. We cannot sit silent on this issue and let people in wheelchairs slip back into the closet, excluded from equal participation in community life. Make no mistake, tomorrow it could be you! One American in five is disabled. Think of how you would feel locked up in your house because you can't afford to to buy yourself the equipment you need just to function. Please care that disabled individuals with special needs who have vital and valuable talents and abilities to contribute to society, are being victimized. A disabled person needs payers to provide access to the wheelchair that he/she medically requires, and the wheelchair he/she needs to participate as an independent person in the community. Thirty years ago, I saw disabled people sitting at home in their wheelchairs in bedroom slippers because buildings, services and programs were not accessible. I found that intolerable. Now, we can get out, and we can get in. But, those of us who need special equipment to function in the world must assert our right to full participation, as guaranteed by the American's with Disabilities Act. This Medicare restriction contradicts rights assured by the American's with Disabilities Act, the Olmstead Supreme Court Decision, the Ticket-to-Work Program, and the New Freedom Initiative - all aimed at improved community access for individuals with disabilities. If we do not stand up for independence, we will lose it. In this day and age, there are actually people who are being imprisoned in their homes because they are unable to buy equipment themselves and insurers are using a poorly worded law as a model to prevent them from obtaining the wheelchair their physician prescribed and that was provided in the past. That is dehumanizing. That is inexcusable. Congressman Langevin (D-RI) and Congressman Ramstad (R-MIN) have introduced legislation in the House of Representatives to fix Medicare's "in the home" restriction on mobility devices. The Medicare Independent Living Act is legislation to eliminate this discriminatory restriction for individuals with long-term mobility needs and return to them "the dignity and freedom of independent living" (Congressman Ramstad). Please, if you support pending legislation to close the loopholes in the 2005 Medicare Law that is limiting all wheelchair users, speak up for us! Contact your Congressman at 1-877-224-0041 and ask that he become an original co-sponsor of the Medicare Independent Living Act (HR1809). Or, for more information, visit www.spinalcord.org and click on "Your Freedom is being Threatened."
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