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Independent Living News & Policy from the National Council on Independent Living

The Road to Independence Has Many Detours: A Call to Action on Durable Medical Equipment

By Madonna Long (, Consumer Advocate

Due to recent changes, obtaining durable medical equipment (DME) and services has become increasingly difficult in communities everywhere. If you use a manual wheelchair, power wheelchair, or scooter you may be experiencing problems finding a provider to maintain your existing equipment or to buy new from.

Many disability rights organizations and industry groups have worked side by side over the last few years to ensure that people who rely on these services receive the right product for their unique needs or disability. However, with changes to Medicare, those services and the qualified provider network has become compromised.

DME providers who have established their businesses in communities big and small are the professionals who maintain and sell the products that we need to remain independent. For the last 5 years, the DME Provider Network has been shrinking and may no longer exist at all in some communities due to recent legislation or policy changes, including competitive bidding and the end of the purchase option. 

The recent changes to Medicare not only affect beneficiaries, but also consumers who have private insurance and veterans. This is because the DME companies, mostly mom-and-pop privately owned establishments could no longer do business because of changes to Medicare’s rules.

When these important businesses leave communities, many consumers will have decreased access to a DME provider or none at all. Consumers might have insurance to pay for the services with Medicare, VA Insurance, Medicaid, or private insurance, but when there are no providers, access is compromised none the less.

Whether they have Medicare, VA Insurance, Medicaid, or private insurance, many consumers are being denied quality service and we need to hear their stories. When providers are limited, quality and care is also limited, so please send stories to your local papers, large news organizations, and your partner organizations.

The truth is that no matter if you have Medicaid, Medicare, or VA Insurance or private insurance, new rules and current policies are going to limit access to DME providers and services no matter where you live. It’s time to get our stories out there. No matter what insurance you have, if you have no access to a qualified DME professional you have no access to independence.

Sending stories to the press can make a difference. Here is an example:

When a veteran’s wheelchair fell apart, Lowe’s employees came to the rescue. The article praised the employees, but also shamed the VA as the responsible party. When the article went viral on social media, the public sent waves of negative responses about the VA not helping this veteran. This is a great example of how the media can help and shows the power of the press. Whether you are a veteran or another member of the disability community, these stories can be powerful.

Stories are needed for articles and social media. Please send stories to me at


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