The government's recent efforts to cut down on Medicare fraud may be hurting the people who need help the most. People who have severe disabilities have been receiving letters denying payment for the wheelchairs they already own and use.
In 1985, Bonnita Wallace was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but it wasn't until three years ago that she was forced to spend most of her life in a wheelchair.
"I've done quite a bit in this chair. I call it my Rolls Royce," she said.
So imagine her shock when Medicare recently informed her the chair wasn't "medically necessary."
"A few months ago, I got a letter saying the claim was denied and it wasn't paid for. I'm wondering, 'Are they going to come and repossess my chair?'" said Wallace, of Hendersonville.
She isn't alone. Nearly two dozen Tennesseans have received that same devastating news over the past six months. Theresa Fisher is another.
"I have to have the chair to get around," Fisher said.
Ben Shapiro works for Ed's Medical, one of the largest motorized wheelchair providers in the state. Because of these recent denials, Medicare has told them they'll have to reimburse the government some $200,000.
"We would have never provided it if we didn't think it was medically necessary," Shapiro said. "Essentially, Medicare is saying these people don't qualify, even though they're the most severely disabled population that there is: quadriplegics, ALS, MS, paraplegics."
All 22 of these citizens have filed an appeal but that's a process that could take two to three years due to the current backlog.
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