New Braunfels, Texas

In January, The Scooter Store announced the layoff of 200 employees, a move the company attributes to the clarification of Medicare's power wheelchair coverage policy, issued in December by the durable medical equipment regional carriers.

“We deeply regret the necessity of reducing our work force,” Margaret McGuckin, the company's executive vice president of marketing, stated in a press release. “Unfortunately, we have no choice since the unreasonable new ‘clarification,’ when its full impact is felt, may prevent us from serving thousands of disabled elderly people who, with power mobility, would have been able to continue to live independently.”

Under the DMERCs' clarification, issued as part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' 10-point plan to curb power wheelchair fraud and abuse, power wheelchairs are covered only for “patients who are non-ambulatory,” that is, those who “can only bear weight to transfer from a bed to a chair or wheelchair.”

According to The Scooter Store release, “Medicare has provided such devices since 1996 to people needing assistance to get around inside their home. The new ‘clarification,’ as interpreted by CMS, would deny the power mobility benefit for any person who can take more than a single step within his or her home.”

McGuckin called the layoffs a result of federal bureaucratic overreaction to criminal fraud in the power mobility sector uncovered in the Houston area last year. She also said she is hopeful that the Medicare clarification will be revised soon to allow seniors ongoing access to power mobility equipment.

After the reduction in its work force, the company said it will have ongoing emlployment of 950 at its New Braunfels headquarters and approximately 350 workers at more than 60 sales and distribution facilities across the country.

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