A Win for Patients

Published in Government Relations on July 26, 2023

As we approach the effective date of numerous laws passed by the Legislature this year, we want to extend our appreciation to Don Whitney, PAMES, and all those involved in the relentless efforts to get SB 5218 passed. With the dedicated sponsorship of 4th District Sen. Mike Padden, this law marks a significant step forward in making motorized wheelchairs more accessible for everyone. 

Read the announcement below from Sen. Mike Padden's office.

People buying motorized wheelchairs or other mobility-improving equipment will pay less thanks to Senate Bill 5218, which makes such equipment tax-exempt. The Senate and House unanimously approved SB 5218.

“This law will help people with disabilities by removing the sales tax from motorized wheelchairs or other technological equipment, which will help them save money while also helping maintain their independence,” said Padden.

One of the people who provided written testimony in support of SB 5218 is Steve Gleason, a former Gonzaga Prep, Washington State University, and New Orleans Saints football player who contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“This is a huge win for both patients and companies that sell mobility-enhancing equipment, as it removes a barrier that a lot of times made it impossible for patients to get equipment,” said Don Whitney, chief operating officer of Inland Medical and Rehab. “Most insurances, including Medicare, did not pay for the sales tax, leaving either the patient or our company to pay the tax to the state Department of Revenue. In Spokane that is equivalent to 9%. So a $40,000 high-end CRT wheelchair would have a tax of $3,600 that needed to be collected from the patient or our company just absorbed the tax and paid it. We absorbed the cost just so we could service our patients, who are also our friends. In the last decade, over 60 independent companies in Washington state went out of business as they could not maintain paying sales tax and not being reimbursed it.

“My hope is this will help the bottom line for all companies providing services in Washington, leading to patients having more access to service and receiving better equipment. Patients who have to pay privately for this equipment will now also have greater access by not having to pay the tax. Most patients are on limited incomes, and without this equipment may be hospitalized or put into long-term care. The passage of SB 5218 has opened the door for people so they can stay in their homes and has helped companies improve their bottom lines to remain in business and provide quality products and access to service to its patients,” added Whitney.

The new law states that to claim the sales-tax exemption, the purchaser must provide the seller with an exemption certificate as prescribed by the State Department of Revenue. The tax exemption will apply to mobility-enhancing equipment sold or used on or after Aug. 1, 2023.


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