• Power Mobility Helps Ms. Wheelchair America Shine

    Editor’s Note:  In the press release below, Josie Badger, Ms. Wheelchair America, discusses her concerns about how competitive bidding threatens patient quality of care.

    PITTSBURGH, Oct. 4, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Ensuring Power Mobility is Available for People Living with Disabilities

    Most toddlers go from strollers to taking their first steps, but Josie Badger had a more complicated transition. Now 27, Badger recalls that she went from a stroller to her first wheelchair, beginning a lifelong dependence on medical equipment to provide her mobility.

    Badger has a form of muscular dystrophy called Congenital Myasthenia Gravis Syndrome, a neuromuscular disease that weakens her muscles. She is a full time wheelchair and ventilator user with twenty-four hour homecare nurses and aides. Her ability to swallow, see clearly, or even talk varies on a day-to-day basis.

    Yet, refusing to be limited by this disability, Badger has flourished. She has reached heights that everyone would be proud to achieve. Badger is working on a Ph.D. in Healthcare Ethics at Duquesne University after receiving a graduate degree in rehabilitation counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated summa cum laude from Geneva College in 2007.

    “I’ve always been pretty stubborn,” she says, in explaining her refusal to believe that she can’t strive for the same accomplishments as someone without a disability.

    “I live on my own and have two jobs,” Badger says. “People living with disabilities don’t have to be limited. I look at this not as a death sentence, but a sentence of opportunities…we may need more support than others, but think about it, no one is independent from birth to death. We need people to realize and understand that some of us can’t live without our wheelchairs and ventilators.”

    Badger realizes that some people look at the people with disabilities, and say, “those poor people,” and want to see disabilities eliminated so society doesn’t have to “deal” with them. But she is defiant.

    “I wouldn’t be where I am today without my disability,” Badger retorts. “And so it’s not about eliminating the disability itself, it’s about promoting ability through disability… I would never get rid of my disability. I feel blessed to have it because that is how I became who I am and it has shaped my work and my passion. I don’t know who I would be without it.”

    In August, Badger was selected Ms. Wheelchair America for 2012. The Ms. Wheelchair America organization promotes the achievements of women who use wheelchairs. Badger intends to continue her work advocating for people living with disabilities.

    “I’m excited to represent other Americans with disabilities,” she says. “Helping others is something that I have always believed in.”

    Badger has a longstanding relationship with the National Youth Leadership Network, which she has served as its president and vice president. She also works as Youth Coordinator at the Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership Center, where she assists families of children with disabilities and is a consultant for the Berks County Intermediate Unit. In 2005, Badger assisted in founding the Pennsylvania Youth Leadership Network. Now with 2,000 members, the Network works to empower youth with disabilities throughout the state. She currently works with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on their family forum. And Badger was named one of Glamour Magazine’s Top College Women of 2006.

    She grew up on a farm just north of Pittsburgh, and credits her parents, both retired school teachers, with helping her understand that physical limitations should not limit her life. Badger also greatly appreciates the role that mobility equipment has played in her life. At times, however, she has had disputes with physicians, Medicare and private insurance companies over which mobility devices would be best for her lifestyle and condition. And, yes, again, she has been defiant.

    “Obviously, none of my accomplishments would be possible without some type of mobility device,” Badger says. “I don’t believe that people with disabilities have to be dependent on others… Sometimes independent choices begin with the ability to make the most basic decisions and to determine how you want to gain the freedom of movement.”

    Over the years, Badger at various times has utilized manual wheelchairs, power wheelchairs and power scooters. Her preference has often been scooters, which provide mobility and she finds them to be more durable while traveling and performing her daily tasks.

    “I use a scooter for everything, but many of the insurance companies and Medicare don’t like scooters,” Badger says, noting “unfair” accusations that scooters are for recreational use, rather than being a medical necessity for some. “I’ve had a scooter for about 24 years. What it came down to is that the scooter works for me. I use my scooter more than some people use their cars.” What it also means is that while Medicare and private insurance have paid for some of her mobility devices, she often purchases them herself, going on the “the black market” as she jokingly calls it.

    “The politicians and bureaucrats say that’s not what we’re funding, but that’s not how it works for me,” she says. “I won’t accept what someone else says is OK. For me, my personal choice is important. I find the scooter that I want and pay for it, and then I try and get reimbursed.”

    In fact, Badger says that being “a farm girl” has helped her learn to make her own repairs on her scooters, even to the point of changing the transmission.

    She recognizes, however, that the challenges she faces differ from the challenges faced by many Medicare beneficiaries in need of mobility assistance. She is concerned that Medicare’s ill-conceived, competitive bidding program and the end of the first-month purchase option are negatively impacting home medical equipment providers, and in turn, restricting Medicare patients’ access to mobility assistance. Because of the regulatory changes, many medical equipment businesses are no longer offering power wheelchairs or they are going out of business.

    “I know that if you can’t get the chair that you need, it’s a major concern,” she says. “How can we have rules that say Medicare patients can’t qualify for a power wheelchair unless it is required for use inside their home? We’re trying to get people to not need public assistance, but at the same time we tell them they can’t leave their homes. How are they supposed to find jobs? It’s really disconcerting for me…

    “We must support and encourage human opportunity and potential.”

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