Schmeler awarded $2.5 million to study health coverage for custom wheelchairs

A Disability and Rehabilitation Research Project headed by Mark Schmeler, associate professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been awarded $2.5 million over five years from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.

Schmeler, who is vice chair for Education & Training in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology, and his team will investigate a new health coverage policy for custom manual and power wheelchairs for people with disabilities to improve their ability to live and participate in their communities.

The project summary says that current health policy for these devices is very restrictive to the point that they are not even covered for people to leave their homes to attend work or school, which conflicts with the spirit of the Rehabilitation Act.

Schmeler and his department are partnering with UPMC and UPMC Health Plan, along with Ohio State University, University of Michigan and key disability, industry and policy stakeholders to evaluate current policies and novel models with stakeholder input. They also plan to develop a standardized assessment and procurement protocol; perform analyses of existing datasets relevant to these devices; and evaluate the feasibility of a new model.