This single decision by Medicare will positively impact the lives of many, many people. Until very recently, seat elevators were usually denied in the US. That is because this feature was automatically denied by Medicare, and almost all other medical insurers follow the lead of Medicare in their decision-making (with a few exceptions).
As a result, it has usually been only wealthy clients who could afford to pay thousands of dollars out-of-pocket or those with exceptional insurance that were able to have this capability included in their wheelchairs. As Medicare only covers 80% of costs, the responsibility of the remaining 20% will fall on any secondary insurance a client has or will still be private pay. However, this will still significantly reduce the cost to clients for seat elevation, even if they are paying out-of-pocket, making seat elevation much more within reach for many people who would benefit from this capability.
Wheelchairs with seat elevators allow people to raise and lower themselves in their wheelchairs. Why is this important? It allows people to adjust their wheelchair to meet the demands of the environment around them. It allows people to reach into cabinets, to socialize with other people at eye level, to be less likely to be hit by a car or truck when crossing the street, to more easily and independently transfer in and out of their wheelchair, to sit at the appropriate height under a table, etc.
Here is a great video that makes it easier to visualize the positive impact of seat elevation:
When a wheelchair does not have seat elevation, the rest of the environment has to be adapted to accommodate the height of the wheelchair or else the person using the wheelchair will be much more limited in what they are able to do independently. Seat elevation eliminates many of those needs and modification costs and also makes traveling much easier. This single decision by Medicare will have such a positive impact on so many people in the US.
Medicare has stated that they will also be considering the issue of standing frame power wheelchairs separately.
Here is the link to CMS’s announcement of this decision.