Thursday, September 17, 2009

Yet Another Awful Health Care Story (From the USA!)

An Objectivist friend of mine in California has a disabled child and they got her an iBot wheelchair more than a year ago.  While watching So You Think You Can Dance the other night, I noticed one of the contestant's mother has one.  I told Santiago, my husband, about it, but couldn't find the demonstration video online anymore.  I sent my California  friend a message via Facebook to see if he had the link.

He told me, "Her wheelchair is the iBot 4000 Mobility System. You might be able to find it at; but I'm not sure because they got discontinued.  (Don't get me started on why, but let's just say it's Atlas shrugging.)  You might poke around and look for videos on YouTube or elsewhere too."

After seeing the demonstration video myself more than a year ago and after hearing how wonderful this breakthrough medical technology been for my friend's daughter, it just makes me sick to my stomach that this wonderful device is no longer available to those who need it.  Thanks Big Government!  
From the last link: 
Because of certain FDA certifications / ratings relating to safety, we cannot sell and distribute the iBOT with a prescription and user training.  We really wish we could sell them to roboticists, but unfortunately, that would result in loosing the very costly certification.


Tony at CSUF Comm said...

Thanks for the cross-posting on this Kelly!

The FDA certification that was noted on the robotics site was actually something that Independence Technology obtained with the intent that it would help make an iron-clad argument why the iBot is a wheelchair and not some strange robot luxury device.

Being FDA approved was supposed to get insurance companies to fund iBot purchases and ensure that people who use iBots would not face use restrictions of the kind that some municipalities have imposed on Segways.

By the way, you need a doctor's prescripton to buy any medical equipment, including wheelchairs, as if it were something potentially dangerous like a controlled susbtance such as Xanax. It's also technically illegal to resell them privately, though it happens all the time.

Even so, I had to tussle with my school district's transportation director because a bus driver didn't like Sophia's iBot and just made a big scene and show one day, of the kind that upset Sophia so much that decided she wouldn't take a bus anymore.

Another problem is that insurance companies use government action as a crutch; if Medi-Cal won't cover something, then they won't either.

Here's another lovely one: By default, at least in California, disabled people are covered by Medi-Cal. That poses a problem because Medi-Cal covers next to nothing. It's more of a problem with equipment and less with care, but providers will limit patients' choices because of Medi-Cal's limitations.

Here's how: Let's say you want a portable patient lift for your home. There are 10 available, with a price difference range in the low hundreds of dollars. If you pay cash, you can have any of the 10. If you have private insurance, you can maybe have eight of them or possibly even all 10. Medi-Cal? You can have three of them.

OK, fine. But here's the problem. If you have private insurance AND Medi-Cal, you get limited to the bottom three because of low state reimbursements that providers are required by law to accept. And they can't bill patients for the difference.

The result? Well, Sophia is getting a really cool new wheelchair next week with a top-notch vendor we shopped down in Orange County, and we made absolutely NO mention of her having Medi-Cal so that we could pick whatever we wanted.

When we had gone through a local vendor referred by the local California Children's Services offices - who knew Sophia was covered by Medi-Cal - even with private insurance he tried to shoehorn Sophia into a cheaper chair that didn't meet her needs (such as extra support under her legs and a seat color that a little girl would like - he tried to force us into cheaper black). He made all these excuses about being limited, etc. so we fired him.

Kelly Valenzuela said...

Ugh! That's awful! So Sophia doesn't have her iBot any longer?

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