Industry Organizations Oppose Massachusetts Bill on Wheelchair Repair

Three Complex Rehab Technology and Durable Medical Equipment organizations have collaborated on a letter sent to leaders of the Massachusetts legislature concerning S.3136, also known as “Expanding Wheelchair Warranty Protections for Consumers with Disabilities.”

In a Nov. 7 bulletin, the American Association of Homecare (AAHomecare) said it had joined with the Home Medical Equipment and Services Association of New England (HOMES) and NCART on the letter.

“While AAHomecare and our partners are committed to improving the wheelchair repair process to ensure consumers receive timely and quality repair services, the bill as currently written would place undue burdens on providers and manufacturers and ultimately reduce patient access to high-quality mobility products,” the AAHomecare bulletin said.

“The joint letter suggests alternate language to differentiate between legitimate warranty issues and normal wear and tear, overly prescriptive repair timeframes, length-of-warranty protections, and other areas to improve the legislation.”

The letter was sent to Rep. Ronald Mariano, the Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, and Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, Chairman of the Massachusetts House Committee on Ways and Means.

The letter was signed by HOMES President/CEO Catherine A. Hamilton; NCART Executive Director Wayne Grau; and AAHomecare President/CEO Tom Ryan.

The letter pointed out that the industry organizations had been working with proponents of the current legislation “to reach a compromise that could satisfy all stakeholders,” but that disability groups involved in the project broke off talks last spring.

“While we acknowledge that issues with the repair of wheelchairs need to be addressed, we believe the best way towards that goal is to do so together, not by passing legislation of such substance during the informal session,” the letter said.

The letter explained that timely wheelchair repair services are “due to a series of complicated problems that require multiple policy changes to resolve (prescription/documentation, prior authorization, reimbursement, supply chain and labor).”

The organizations argued that focusing on wheelchair warranties isn’t the best answer: “We believe the bill is oversimplifying the resolutions needed by trying to address all wheelchair repair issues in a warranty bill, despite the fact that fewer than 7 percent of wheelchair repairs are due to a manufacturer defect, based on information we received from an informal survey of Massachusetts wheelchair providers.”

The ”most significant concern” about the bill, the organizations added, is what would be defined as “warranty coverage” if the bill becomes law. “The definition is much broader than other state laws’ definitions, and could inappropriately mandate coverage for non-warranty conditions that are the direct result of an accidental event or the result of ‘ordinary wear and tear.’ For these types of issues, it is inappropriate for state law to establish mandatory response times which are far better suited to be created via regulation or a sub-regulatory policy.”

The organizations also objected to the “punitive” nature of some portions of the bill, which they contend would unreasonably strain wheelchair manufacturers and providers. And the organizations said the bill “treats the role of traditional manufacturers and wheelchair providers as one and the same. The language wholly ignores the reality of how wheelchairs are supplied to persons with disabilities, and it is unclear how it could be implemented.”

Read the HOMES/NCART/AAHomecare letter here; read the bill here.

 

About the Author

Laurie Watanabe is the editor of Mobility Management. She can be reached at lwatanabe@1105media.com.

Referrals and Prescriptions podcast