Written by Katie Lynch-Morin for mlive.com and The Saginaw News on February 20, 2013
BRIDGEPORT, MI — For many years, Bridgeport Township-based Amigo Mobility has been working to crack down on Medicare fraud.
The company’s mobility scooters are only partially covered while larger, more expensive models — sometimes costing thousands of dollars more — from places like The Scooter Store are covered in full.
On Wednesday, Feb. 20, though, Amigo may have been given some hope as the Texas-based Scooter Store was raided by FBI, the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Texas Attorney General’s office, according to a report from MySanAntonio.com.
“It is unfortunate for workers who may lose their jobs, but this is a victory for people who truly need mobility assistance,” said Kate Hofmann, a spokeswoman for Amigo.
In January, My San Antonio reported The Scooter Store received as much as $87.7 million in Medicare over payments from 2009 to 2011. Medicare and its beneficiaries pay more than $4,000 for standard power wheelchairs.
While medically-funded chairs only represent a small part of Amigo’s business, as the company has diversified into serving shopping centers, amusement parks and other areas, officials at the business say they receive many calls and emails from people who thought they were receiving a Medicare-funded Amigo only to be disappointed with a much larger four-wheeled, power wheelchair from another company.
A study released by the Office of the Inspector General shows hundreds of millions of Medicare dollars are wasted each year on medically unnecessary power wheelchairs.
More than 61 percent of Medicare-funded power wheelchairs were either medically unnecessary or lacked sufficient documentation to determine medical necessity during the first half of 2007 alone, the Inspector General’s report said.
In December 2011, Jennifer Thieme Kehres sat down with John Stossel. The TV show host told Kehres that nothing is free and taxpayers are footing the bill for the billions of Medicare dollars being spent on unnecessary power wheelchairs.
“Tax-payer dollars and the needs of people with disabilities have been exploited by large corporations like The Scooter Store for far too long,” Hofmann said.