Want to Walk and Roll? Prepare for a Search

“You are in a competitive bid area” we were told as we looked for a vendor who would accept Medicare for a family member who needs a walker. (The Medicare competitive bid program began a six-month phase-in period across the country, including rural areas, on January 1, 2016.) We found the one vendor in the area, however, they don’t have the type of walker the doctor prescribed (a 4-wheel – “Rollator” walker). They might be getting some in, but when was not clear.

Unfortunately, vendors have left this rural area. There’s no one, we were told, who sells or repairs motorized scooters, for example, within 100 miles. We suspect competitive bidding influenced this lack of local resources. (See this advocacy article from the American Association for Home Care.)

blue walker in a kitchen with a seat and larger wheelsSo one option was to check on loan closets in the area. We also checked the ATXchange.org, and within a day or two a nice looking Hugo Rollator Walker was posted, however, it’s too far away to be practical.  The family member really wants to try to get a new walker anyway, as they are concerned about wear and tear on a used device.  Strike three on the search!

The next call was to the local Disability Network, the Superior Alliance for Independent Living, to talk with Carolyn Boyle.  She was able to provide the name of a technician at a vendor along with the person’s phone number and email address. Unfortunately, they are over 100 miles away, but we probably need to follow-up with this lead and make the trip.

While searching, I also found some helpful resources about how to fit a walker.

Until we can do more research and maybe schedule a trip, we installed a railing in the hallway from the bedroom to the bathroom, which will help during the night and in the morning, before muscles warm-up and become a bit more flexible. I’m working on at least a temporary solution, if the family member will agree and a device can be found at the local loan closet.

Are you in a rural area? Have you looked for durable medical equipment in the past couple years? Thanks for sharing your experience!

Author: Kathryn Wyeth

Kathryn Wyeth started working at MDRC in the summer of 1994. She's worked with the Michigan Assistive Technology Program since the fall of 1997 and is currently the AT Team Leader.

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