by Shanoor Seervai, Arnav Shah, and Tanya Shah
“‘My wheelchair equals “my legs.” But under [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] rules, I can only get a new chair every five years,’ says Burt Pusch, a lifelong disability advocate and retired university professor who receives his health coverage through Medicare. ‘A lot of the people I know have wheelchairs that are falling apart. Their chairs are literally being held together with duct tape and wire. These individuals have been denied approval for a new chair because of some arbitrary five-year magic window.’
“Pusch’s experience with Medicare’s policy on replacing durable medical equipment underscores the many ways that the U.S. health care system fails to meet the needs of the 85 million Americans living with disabilities, such as physical limitations, cognitive difficulties, or serious mental illness.
“Almost all of us know someone with a disability. Four million veterans — more than one in five — are living with a disability that is the result of a disease or injury that occurred during active military service. And in a split second, an accident at work or while crossing the street could leave any one of us to contend with a changed physical or intellectual reality.”