KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Leah Aviel may be in a wheelchair, but she doesn’t let it slow her down.
“I go to school,” said Ms. Aviel. “I go to the doctor. I go to temple. I visit friends. My life is not just in this room.”
But the two-year-old power wheelchair she relies on to keep her that active is falling apart.
“If it were a car it would be a lemon,” she said with disgust.
To get it going, she has to kick off with her foot, like you would a bicycle. She uses duct tape and bungee cords to keep the back from falling down and the arms from falling off.
But it only holds some of the time, the back keeps slipping, giving her almost no support. Most people could just call the store where they bought the wheelchair and ask to have it repaired, but Ms. Aviel doesn’t have that option.
She got her chair from The Scooter Store, which was closed last year after being investigated for Medicare fraud. With The Scooter Store closed, getting repairs for her troubled chair has become nearly impossible.
She says she has to find a new company to repair the chair, and to do that Medicare wants her to go through the entire authorization process over again to prove she actually needs one. That can take months. She says her pleas for a quicker solution have been ignored.
Experts tell FOX 4 that what Ms. Aviel is dealing with is typical for millions of disabled Americans. In fact, the American Association for Homecare issued a statement blaming what it describes as a Medicare program burdened with rules that are “confusing and seem illogical.” It blames Medicare for so severely limiting the number of companies that can sell and repair Medicare-provided medical equipment that it has become impossible for many people to find companies willing to help them when repairs are needed.
FOX 4 Problem Solvers called Medicare hoping to find a solution for Ms. Avila. Medicare is now looking into the problem, but points out that Ms. Avila is not eligible for a new chair for at least another two years. Plus, Medicare says she’s in violation of Medicare rules by using her wheelchair outside of her home.
FOX 4 is hoping that if anyone has an extra sturdy power wheelchair you’d be willing to donate, you’ll give us a call or email us here at Fox 4 Problem Solvers.