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Two for One

It has been said that two is better than one and that seems to be true when it comes to the current state of the U.S. scooter market. The market is growing

It has been said that “two is better than one”
— and that seems to be true when it comes to the current
state of the U.S. scooter market.

The market is growing for two reasons: The aging baby boomer
population is becoming increasingly interested in new technology
that will enable them to remain active and independent.
Additionally, recent reimbursement modifications have made scooters
a more accessible option for those who require powered mobility
devices.

These sales drivers have prompted home medical equipment
providers to develop both sets of customers through effective
evaluation, marketing, sales and service.

“There are significant growth opportunities in this
product line,” states Ben Kingery, Invacare Corp.'s group
product manager of powered mobility.

He explains that the change in CMS' coverage policy for mobility
assistive equipment has had a major impact on this market. Last
year, the agency released new function-based criteria as a basis
for coverage, resulting in evaluations that focus on beneficiaries'
ability to perform daily living activities such as toileting,
grooming and eating. The change takes clinicians through a
“stepped” process to determine which mobility device is
medically necessary. It also eliminates the requirement for a
specialist to prescribe a scooter.

“It appears that [the new criteria] will increase the
number of scooters being prescribed,” says Kingery.

“When we did our consumer research, it seemed like there
were a lot of people who wanted to get a scooter, or thought they
needed a scooter, but they didn't really want to go see a
specialist or didn't know even where to begin to find
one.”

Pieter Leenhouts, vice president of standard products for
Sunrise Medical, agrees that the elimination of a specialist's
prescription has had a positive effect on market growth.
“From a Medicare reimbursement point of view, a lot of
hurdles were removed for this market to grow,” he says.

“Then on top of that, the market itself — just from
consumer cash business — is growing very rapidly as well
because the demographics have shifted, and scooters are becoming
more accepted products for people to use as a mobility
device.”

The stepped approach to coverage for mobility equipment also has
shown that many consumers really belonged in scooters rather than
power wheelchairs, says DuWayne Kramer, president of Leisure-Lift.
Aimed at making sure Medicare beneficiaries end up with the
appropriate prescription, the criteria begin with the simplest
devices, such as canes and crutches, then progress to products such
as manual wheelchairs, scooters and power wheelchairs.

In fact, responding to HomeCare's 2006 Forecast Survey,
more than 40 percent of providers said they think their scooter
business will increase as a result of CMS' new function-based
approach to mobility coverage. And in the magazine's 2006 Mobility
Survey, the largest group of providers said they expect scooters to
be their companies' fastest-growing mobility product this year.

But the rules that go along with power mobility reimbursements
also are new. There is some confusion regarding the Interim Final
Rule for power mobility, which took effect in October 2005 but has
now been put on hold by Congress until at least April 1. In place
of a certificate of medical necessity, the rule requires a
face-to-face physician exam and supporting documentation, such as
patient chart notes, to substantiate medical necessity for the
equipment.

“Providers should follow the rules, which are a little
cumbersome now, but doable,” advises Leisure-Lift's Jim
Ernst, chief operations officer. “Physician assistance is
needed, but if you work with them, they can provide you with what
you need. Also, use the [CMS] algorithm to make sure you get the
patient in the right product, and make sure you can prove that.

“This has always been [the case],” Ernst points out,
“but people have just never been held to the gun.”

The good news? Kramer says that along with the new coverage
policy, new power mobility codes — currently under review by
the SADMERC — also will create opportunities for new types of
scooters. “We have seen a lot of the code recommendations,
and they are going to open the door for new types of scooters that
you don't see right now,” he says.

Focusing on Consumers

Consumer awareness is yet another factor with a positive effect
on scooter sales, according to Cy Corrigan, Pride Mobility's
national sales manager for retail. “We really credit
providers for getting the word out about scooters to consumers and
educating them through mailers, advertising and the print
media,” he says. “We see it as a very good
market.”

The look of scooters also has changed, which, in turn, has
changed the way consumers — particularly baby boomers —
view these products. “Scooters have now become products that
aren't so medical looking,” notes Kristen Imperiale, Pride's
director of marketing. “They don't have that stigma, so it's
much more acceptable for somebody to be going away on a vacation
and running around on a scooter. It just makes life
easier.”



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