Right to Repair Legislation: Just Say No

Published in Complex Rehab on May 10, 2021

Right to RepairOver the past few months, there have been several bills introduced at the state level titled "Right to Repair." The purpose of these bills is to give the consumer the right to purchase parts from manufacturers directly in order to repair their own products. This may be fine for some consumer goods, but it could have devastating consequences to consumers attempting to repair their own medical equipment for several reasons. 

Consumer Safety

Medical equipment repairs must be done properly and must work properly in order to do the job they are intended to do. For example, a power wheelchair is a highly technical piece of equipment and it enable those with a mobility limitation to safely get around to perform their mobility-related activities of daily living. These products require technical training (skilled technicians) for those that repair them to ensure the repair is done properly. If not done properly, the wheelchair may not work properly or may malfunction.

If the wheelchair malfunctions, what happens to the consumer that requires this item for mobility? For example, if a consumer attempted to change their own power wheelchair batteries and they connect it incorrectly, it could spark and cause a fire in their home. If a consumer replaces a caster and doesn't align it properly or tighten it properly, it could prevent the chair from steering properly and the consumer could hit wall, fall down stairs, or worse. This logic can be applied to all other medical equipment products as well. If a piece of medical equipment that is "medically necessary" isn't repaired properly, the outcome could be devastating to the consumer.

Authorized Technicians

Medicare and other insurances recognize the importance of having qualified trained authorized technicians repair medical equipment as they reimburse for this service (labor code K0739). For complex rehab wheelchairs, it is required for the supplier to have factory trained technicians on staff to repair the medical equipment they provide. Believe me, if an authorized trained technician wasn't required, Medicare (and other insurances) wouldn't pay for it.

The medical community has already addressed the Right to Repair. CMS already requires a certified technician to repair medical devices that are reimbursed by Medicare or Medicaid, which is about 75% of the equipment in CRT according to recent data from the Functional Mobility Assessment.

From the DMEPOS Quality Standards:

The RTS must have at least one or more trained technicians to appropriately service each location depending on the size and scope of the business. A trained technician:

  • Is able to program and repair sophisticated power wheelchairs, alternative drive controls, and power seating systems electronics
  • Completed at least 10 continuing education hours annually specific to rehabilitative technology
  • Is experienced in rehabilitative technology (for example, on-the-job training, familiarity with rehabilitative clients, products, and services)
  • Is trained by the manufacturers on the products supplied by the company

For more information on the repair policies, see Section II appendix B of the DMEPOS Quality Standards.

U.S. Rehab wants to bring this to your attention because it's being introduced in more and more states. We want our members to be prepared to educate those voting on these bills about the potential consequences when an unauthorized consumer attempts to repair their own medical equipment. While many of those representatives voting may think they are helping their constituents' by supporting these bills, they in fact, are putting them in danger of potential serious injury to themselves and those close to them.  

Greg Packer and Dan Fedor are hosting a deeper discussion about this issue and how to prepare for it if (when) if comes to your State. Join them for their next Live Chat with Greg and Dan on Thurs., May 27 at 4pm ET.

Repair Labor Billing and Payment PolicyDMEPOS Fee Schedule Categories

Why Now?

We have already seen this legislation pop up in several states including Colorado and California. In the CRT community, we understand that some repairs are more complex than others. So why is this legislation showing up now?

“Hospitals would like their maintenance staff to repair medical equipment because it would be easier, faster, and more cost effective for them to have their staff repair their equipment,” said Greg Packer, president of U.S. Rehab. “Hospital maintenance staff do not have the same expertise of a factory authorized technician.”

In the last few years, the CRT community has established the DMERT Group and the DMERT certification. The certification provides a standard and training benchmarks for DME and CRT repair. Manufacturers and insurance payers have had standards in the past; the DMERT Group certification provides the authorized technician a way to demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Certifications are available for basic medical equipment, from walkers and manual wheelchairs through Group 3 power wheelchairs.

“Technicians who earn the DMERT certification have proven that they have the knowledge and background needed to be able to properly repair equipment,” said Packer. “The DMERT Group was formed to provide a much needed standard of knowledge that anyone who repairs medical equipment should have. If repairs are properly completed, users of medical equipment can continue to be active in their communities and have more healthy days.”


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