Legislators propose wheelchair inspection legislation

Bill would require insurance, programs to cover inspections and well visits

HARRISBURG, Feb. 28 – With more than 50 percent of wheelchairs breaking down in their first six months of use, state legislators today moved to introduce legislation that could save lives, by requiring insurance and government health programs to cover a twice-yearly wheelchair well visit to inspect a user’s wheelchair.         

The legislation was proposed Tuesday at a press conference by state Rep. Dan Miller, D-Allegheny, Rep. Bridget M. Kosierowski, D-Lackawanna, as well as  Sen. Christine Tartaglione, D-Phila, and Sen. Tim Kearney, D-Delaware, who were joined by members of United Spinal, a nonprofit disability rights and veterans service organization.

“Through my years of work with people with disabilities, I was surprised to learn not just how common it is for a medically-necessary wheelchairs to break down, but also that there is no preemptive program in place to help people keep their mobility,” Miller said. “This legislation proposes a simple fix to create regular check-ups for wheelchair users to make sure they are not stuck at home.”

Research shows that more than 50 percent of wheelchairs break down in the first six months after they are fitted to their user. For certain populations, that rate is even higher, with one study citing up to 88 percent of veterans who use a wheelchair needing a repair in the same six-month window. Establishing a regular wheelchair service plan is preventative, and in many cases, life-saving medicine.

"These complex wheelchairs are a lifeline to independence for so many people, and for those who rely on a complex wheelchair, ill-fitting, deteriorating or damaged parts can leave them isolated while they wait for repairs. In the same way that health insurance covers well-visits to keep people healthy and allows for adjustments to prosthetics, it’s important that people have well-conditioned complex wheelchairs to ensure their safety,” Kosierowski said.

The proposed legislation would require that wheelchair users in the commonwealth, whether publicly or privately insured, have access to two wheelchair maintenance well-visits per year covered by their insurance, where repairs and adjustments can be made to ensure the comfort and safety of the user. This bill would also require each existing user and new user to be notified annually of their right to these two well-visits.

“For two decades, I have used a wheelchair as an extension of my body, to get around and participate in the everyday aspects of life,” said Sen. Tartaglione. “Ensuring all wheelchair users have access to safe and reliable wheelchairs is the bare minimum we as a society can do. I am thankful my colleagues are joining together to highlight the importance of keeping wheelchair users out there participating in the world!”