Ed Kane needed a wheelchair fast. It was early 2012 and he had just been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. But to add insult to injury, his employer’s insurance had a cap of $2500 on what it would pay for medical equipment. The cost of the complex wheelchair he needed: $30,000.
“That’s when I started learning the hard way about the kinds of issues that face the disabled,” says Kane, who was a Chicago community banker for 34 years, local Chamber of Commerce president, and president of the Chicago Lions football club.
Kane was forced to pay for his wheelchair from his retirement savings. More medical equipment expenses followed. He learned that many disabled wait up to eight months to get the wheelchairs they need because they are waiting for Medicare to cover the cost. Even as his own physical condition deteriorates, he has formed Devices for the Disabled, a subsidiary of Project Hugs Foundation.
“If I can get equipment to people who aren’t as lucky as I was to have savings to draw on so they can buy what they need, that would be quite a legacy for me,” Kane says.
Project Hugs/Devices 4 the Disabled (D4D) is a 501(c)3 organization formed in August 2015 with a simple mission: to help individuals get the equipment they need when they need it and at a reasonable cost.
To accomplish its mission, D4D welcomes donations of used durable medical equipment–everything from walkers and commodes to lifts and hospital tables. (We do not accept hospital beds.) It will pick up, refurbish, and re-purpose that equipment and make it available to the disabled who need it at a modest price or (for more expensive items like wheelchairs) a monthly rental fee.
D4D disrupts the current broken system of providing durable medical equipment in several ways:
· It provides pickup, storage, and delivery services. Its transportation partner is Pickens-Kane Moving & Storage.
· It makes expensive equipment available on a rental basis. Currently the disabled only have the option of buying, which forces them to wait for insurance or raise large amounts of cash.
· It provides repair and fitting services. The system is plagued by difficulties and delays in obtaining needed DME repairs. Often, patients have to wait days, weeks, and even months to get equipment serviced. Dr. Jessica Pedersen (OTR/L, MBA, ATP, Research Occupational Therapist, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) estimated that patients endure waits of 2 weeks to 6 months for repairs. While waiting, they miss appointments, work, are stranded, or even injured.
· It eliminates long wait periods. Patients forced to use “loaner” wheelchairs or other equipment that don’t fit them are uncomfortable and face injury. They are often told, “Medicare will pay.” But waiting for the Medicare/Medicaid bureaucracy to respond to their needs can take many months or even up to a year or more. Kane’s own nephew had to wait eight months to get the wheelchair he needed after an injury.
Kane uses the term The Reinvented Wheel to describe the money bridge and streamlined infrastructure provided by D4D.
“The whole medical equipment delivery system is fragmented in many places,” says Kane. “It’s costing people time and money. It’s difficult to get equipment, to get repairs, to get fittings and evaluations, and we’re determined address a couple of the many issues that are faced by the disabled.”
The need for a better delivery system for durable medical equipment continues to grow. Many patients being released by rehabilitation facilities do not automatically receive wheelchairs. Some manufacturers refuse to deliver wheelchairs to Medicaid patients.
Not only that, but people with disabilities constitute 15 percent of Medicaid beneficiaries but account for 42 percent of Medicaid expenditures, primarily due to their extensive health and long-term care needs, according to a 2009 Kaiser Family Foundation study.
“It is an honor to have Project HUGS work with Ed Kane and his new organization to help the disabled and raise awareness about the issues they face”, said Dr. Severko Hrywnak, founder of Chicago-based Project HUGS foundation, which seeks to give the underinsured, military and First Responders the surgical care they need at minimal or no cost.
“Our organization will really help the veteran who can’t get a wheelchair, or a poverty-stricken person on the south side who can’t get around and is waiting for help,” says Bill Owens, executive director of Devices for the Disabled. “We will fix what they need, deliver it, provide a technician to make sure that item works and fits correctly, and make it available when patients need it and at a price they can afford.”
Donations to Devices 4 the Disabled are tax-deductible. Individuals interested in donating money or equipment can contact Devices 4 the Disabled, 6348 N. Milwaukee, Suite 147, Chicago, IL 60646, 847-845-4898, or email@example.com.
Press inquiries: Contact Greg Holden, Director of Communications.