My name is Erica Mones and I am a 24-year-old woman with cerebral palsy. I am currently in the process of getting a new wheelchair (as my current wheelchair is broken and Medicare–my current insurance will not fix it because when I got it I had private insurance). I only have use of one arm, and while I am able to walk, I use a wheelchair for distances, to carrying objects from point A to point B, and to conserve energy on busy days. Since I don’t have use of my left arm, a standard manual wheelchair is out of the question. I also cannot use a push-assist chair, as my one arm is too strong and my other too weak to push it.
A standard 400-lb power wheelchair is too heavy and bulky to transport. Medicare only covers wheelchairs to be used in one’s living quarters, so the policy takes no issue with the transportation and accessibility issues that come with having a power chair.
Despite my needs and my previous success with an E-Fix wheelchair (a motorized lightweight manual chair with a joystick), Medicare only covers standard power chairs, manual chairs, and push assist chairs.
I do not have a van for a heavy-duty wheelchair, and not all public transportation can accommodate a 400-lb chair.
Medicare also does not cover elevation features for full-time wheelchair users. This allows people to raise their chair to reach things instead of constantly relying on others.
The government and private insurance companies should not dictate what type of wheelchair a Disabled person can and cannot have. A wheelchair is a deeply personal commitment (that I will have for at least five years) that isn’t one-size-fits-all, and Disabled people do need to leave their homes at times.
Private insurance companies and Medicare still include archaic rules and restrictions that see Disabled people as dollar signs rather than people who deserve to live fulfilling lives. Finding the right wheelchair for oneself is one aspect of being able to live a fulfilling life. Currently, arbitrary rules prevent me and many other Disabled people in this country from reaching our full potential. Medicare and private insurance companies need to update their policies to reflect the needs of individuals.