Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023
(Washington, D.C., May 24, 2023) - CMS announced a major expansion in coverage last week that affects power wheelchair users. CMS will now cover power seat elevation systems used on certain power wheelchairs under Medicare and Medicare Advantage, for the purposes of performing transfers or to improve reach in performing mobility-related activities of daily living (such as cooking on a stove) in their homes.
CMS reached this decision after the ITEM Coalition submitted a request for reconsideration of Medicare’s non-coverage policy regarding power seat elevation and power standing (power standing was deferred). This initiative followed years of advocacy from people with disabilities and stakeholders, including RESNA. RESNA published its first position paper on the benefits of seat elevation systems in 2010, and published updates and more information about the application of seat elevation systems in 2013 and 2019.
When CMS posted its proposed coverage determination earlier this year for the required public comment period, the agency received 2,130 separate and individual comments from Medicare beneficiaries, clinicians, manufacturers, suppliers, researchers, and the general public who were unanimous in their support of Medicare coverage of seat elevation systems.
“We are grateful to the ITEM Coalition, the disability community and all stakeholders who led this effort that prompted CMS to look at the evidence,” said Carmen DiGiovine, PhD, ATP/SMS, RET and President of RESNA’s Board of Directors. “Because of this persistent effort, Medicare will now cover seat elevation for beneficiaries who have a medical need. We hope other insurers and payors follow suit.”
Seat elevation on power wheelchairs can offer significant safety and health benefits to those with mobility impairments. For example, seat elevation allows a person in a wheelchair to transfer more easily to a bed or toilet, and to cook safely using a stove. The scientific literature overwhelmingly shows that seat elevation can be an important technology to allow individuals to perform or participate in daily activities and to avoid injuries and reduction in falls resulting from frequent transfers.
CMS elected to split the seat elevation and standing systems into separate national coverage determinations, evaluating only seating elevation initially. CMS has yet to set a schedule for reviewing standing systems pending further consideration. “We hope that CMS will quickly announce opening its review of the national coverage determination for standing devices,” said DiGiovine. “This is another technology that, for those who need it, can significantly improve health outcomes.”
RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, is the premier professional organization dedicated to promoting the health and well-being of people with disabilities through increasing access to technology solutions. RESNA advances the field by offering certification, continuing education, and professional development; developing assistive technology standards; promoting research and public policy; and sponsoring forums for the exchange of information and ideas to meet the needs of our multidisciplinary constituency. RESNA is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit membership association. Visit www.resna.org.
About the ITEM Coalition
The ITEM Coalition is a national consumer and clinician-led coalition advocating for access to and coverage of assistive devices, technologies, and related services for persons with injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and chronic conditions of all ages. Its members represent individuals with a wide range of disabling conditions, as well as the providers who serve them, including multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, paralysis, limb loss and limb difference, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, hearing, speech, and visual impairments, myositis, and other life-altering conditions. For more information, visit https://www.itemcoalition.org/ or www.Rise4Access.org.