MADISON (WKOW) — The Assembly’s Health Committee voted unanimously Wednesday in support of a bill expanding access to standing wheelchair technology.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Anderson (D-Fitchburg), would require BadgerCare coverage to include standing wheelchairs and elevation devices.
“It’s great that we’re focusing on a group of people that sometimes get ignored,” he said of people who are wheelchair-bound. “Oftentimes, the issues that face us don’t get addressed in buildings like this. That’s why I think it’s important that I’m here because I can not just speak to my experience but be a voice for people that have all kinds of disabilities.”
The standing technology is intended to alleviate some of the physical discomfort and sometimes deadly health implications of prolonged sitting for those who are wheelchair-bound. Issues like osteoporosis, reduced circulation as well as digestion and pressure ulcers come with sitting for long periods.
Pressure ulcers, in particular, are a significant cause of death in people with spinal cord injuries and can be prevented by allowing anyone affected to get upright.
But the assistive technology needed to do so is often too expensive for people who need it.
Anderson wants to change that.
“Having gone through the experience myself, I think it’s important that we make sure that no one isn’t provided these technologies,” he said. “That way, they can live the best lives possible.”
Anderson speaks from experience. At 24-years-old, he was left paralyzed from the chest down after a drunk driver ran into his car, killing his parents and 15-year-old brother. When he requested elevation technology, he was denied.
“I remember the first time I got into an elevator for a doctor’s appointment, I couldn’t reach the buttons at the top of the elevator, and I realized it would have been nice to have that elevating technology,” he said.
Many public and private insurance companies do not consider standing wheelchairs medically necessary. By including them under BadgerCare coverage, which primarily serves low-income people, Anderson hopes to ensure that funding is not their biggest obstacle.
The bill passed unanimously in the Assembly Health Committee Wednesday, and Anderson said he is optimistic about it passing in the Assembly.
“I do think it’s going to pass,” he said. “We’ve been working hard with our Republican colleagues across the aisle to make sure that it’s a bipartisan bill that gets support from as many people as possible.”