Texas City New Braunfels Sues The Scooter Store for Taking Job Creation Money

The Scooter Store, which will go down in history for successfully billing Medicare (and receiving payments) for power wheelchairs which were really cheaper scooters, was raided by the FBI and additional investigators earlier this year.  Now, the city where they are located, New Braunfels, Texas, has filed a lawsuit against the company for pocketing $3.4 million for job creation through a 2009 economic incentive program and then laying off thousands of workers.  The company claims they were impacted by a change in Medicare reimbursements (and tightening Medicare restrictions that helped end the company's practice of obtaining power wheelchair reimbursements from Medicare for cheaper scooters).  

New Braunfels, Texas, would now like $2.6 million of the economic stimulus money back for The Scooter Store's inability to maintain employment levels.  The Scooter Store has laid off 1,000+ employees and is keeping around 100+ employees for now in order to keep collecting the monthly payments on wheelchairs that are not paid off yet.

Caregiverlist originally wrote about The Scooter Store's fraudulent billing and misrepresentation of scooters for wheelchairs back in 2010 when the U.S. Government changed the category of reimbursements to be more clear on the status of a power wheelchair vs. a scooter which had 3 wheels and in no way can offer the mobility protection that a power wheelchair does to a senior who truly has mobility issues.

Power Wheelchairs for Seniors: Scooter Store's Pursuit of Medicare Benefit Opens Door to Fraud ($19 Million+)

Taxes should be less, not more, right? It seems like most people, as we approach April 15th, especially, agree with this.  It would also make sense that we would always want to save the government money on any programs, to help make our tax dollars go further.  But as we know, there are those who are looking to profit handsomely from any government program that will allow them to do so. The new healthcare law has been effective in cracking down on Medicare fraud and now it seems The Scooter Store could be the next company to go away, after selling seniors wheelchairs they could not use, did not want or need. So much for trying to save the government money, right? And they took advantage to the tune of $100 million in overcharges. Medicare reimbursements for power wheelchairs increased by more than 350% after The Scooter Store came along.  Scooter Store employees are now sharing stories of how the company color-coded doctors to indicate which doctors would approve of a "power wheelchair" for medical need, paid for by Medicare or Medicaid.

Medicare reimburses seniors for the purchase of a "power wheelchair" when a medical doctor has approved the need for the power wheelchair.  The reimbursement to medical supply companies was generous - so much so that some medical supply companies would call the home care agency I owned for 7 years and offer us $200 for each power wheelchair referral.  They received upwards of $2,000 for the sale of each power wheelchair from Medicare.

However, in 2011, Medicare finally changed the power wheelchair reimbursement to match the payment format for regular non-power wheelchairs which was a monthly rental fee.

A funny thing then happened at The Scooter Store when they were faced with "normal" profit margins.  Cash flow became tight, layoffs began and the push to gain medical doctor "approval" by going from doctor to doctor to doctor began. Former employees say they were urged to go to another more "friendly" doctor and to reach out to as many as 3 doctors if the first medical doctor declined approval for the wheelchairs.

This is why The Scooter Store would purchase television advertisements and announce to seniors that they could keep their wheelchair if it turns out they did not meet Medicare approval.  The Scooter Store scooted off to find wheelchair manufacturers who would go to China to produce wheelchairs for a very low cost and then of course they also helped facilitate the medical doctor "approval" of the wheelchairs.  A whistle-blower at the company took advantage of the government's whistle-blower protection program and shared that The Scooter Store sort of had their own medical doctor network who would approve of the need for the wheelchair. 

Here is the good and bad news.  If you truly do need a power wheelchair, for sure both you and your doctor know this.  It is simple.  You have difficulty with mobility and walking.  If a company needs to buy advertisements on television to convince you that you need a "scooter", which by the way, they can get for you for free from Medicare, well, there is probably "all kinds of wrong" with this, as my Grandmother would say.  A private company is trying to take advantage of a government program and profit at a much higher percentage than they would if truly operating as a private company with out a juicy government payment.  The fact that The Scooter Store could not operate a profitable company once Medicare reimbursements changed in 2011 speaks for itself.  Many, many other power wheelchair companies operate fairly and are profitable and were not impacted by the change in reimbursement from a lump sum to a monthly payment as it also is profitable reimbursement level.

The reality of needing a power wheelchair also comes with the fact that you will need assistance in customizing the wheelchair to fit your height, weight and arm and hand movement capabilities.  What if you also have arthritis?  This means that the medical equipment company fitting you for the wheelchair truly has some work to do to make sure the wheelchair is customized to fit both you and your home.  Then they also need to train you on how to properly use the wheelchair safely.  This is worth having Medicare pay them a fair price for their labor and is why the reimbursements may sound a bit generous to those who don't understand all the customization that is necessary.

A quality medical equipment company will also come to the home as much as is necessary in order to make sure the senior's wheelchair fits them properly and that all the necessary adjustments have been made.

Ordering a wheelchair that is really a "scooter" from a television ad takes away the customization.  In addition, promoting taking advantage of the power wheelchair benefit for use as a "scooter" just because you might want to get around a bit quicker is taking advantage of a program that was set-up to benefit those who truly cannot walk easily.  Used golf-carts might be a better solution for the senior who just wants a scooter to tool around the neighborhood in.

Medicare changed the definition of power wheelchairs precisely because of The Scooter Store.  Even if The Scooter Store's wheelchairs were high quality, it still cost taxpayers a huge amount of money by pocketing the profits from a program that was meant for seniors who truly needed a power wheelchair.

The Scooter Store settled with the government after the whistle-blower case for around $4 million and you may review this case with the Department of Justice here.

And now it seems The Scooter Store has been excluded from a list of 800 companies awarded contracts to supply medical equipment to Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries beginning July 1, 2013.  In February, 2013, law enforcement officers raided The Scooter Store's Texas headquarters as part of an investigation in alleged fraud.  The Scooter Store founder, Doug Harrison, did step down from his role as CEO in 2011 and while many of us are trying to save the government money, he has in the past been a bit bummed out that the government was being more efficient about reimbursements, as you can see in this news release, when he complained that the government would no longer reimburse for wheelchairs at 6x's their wholesale price.............most retailers, by the way, are happy with 100% mark-ups.

Timothy Menke with the Office of the Inspector General says the investigation involves his agency, plus the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Texas attorney general's Medicaid fraud unit, according to The Associated Press.  

In 2012, an independent auditor determined that the company over-billed Medicare between $46.8 million and $87.7 million, the Express-News reported. The company agreed to repay $19.5 million after the Office of the Inspector General threatened to exclude it from federal health care programs.

We wonder if the U.S. Government will take one more step and hold accountable Mr. Harrison, the founder of The Scooter Store, as well.  Just as the Enron executives were held accountable for their actions.

The U.S. government had to create specific definitions about how a power wheelchair is not a scooter because of The Scooter Store trying to capitalize on the power wheelchair reimbursement from Medicare:

"By representing to physicians that their patients wanted and needed power wheelchairs, The SCOOTER Store obtained thousands of “Certificates of Medical Necessity” from physicians who did not know about the company’s fraudulent practices. The SCOOTER Store then billed government and private health care insurers for power wheelchairs, which were far more costly than power scooters, and collected millions of Medicare and Medicaid dollars.

The SCOOTER Store received $5,000 to $7,000 in reimbursement for each power wheelchair it sold, more than twice the amount for a scooter, which sold for around $1,500 to $2,000. Many beneficiaries had no idea what kind of equipment they were getting, until it was delivered by The SCOOTER Store.

The government’s lawsuit also alleged that The SCOOTER Store knowingly sold used power mobility equipment to beneficiaries and billed Medicare as if the equipment were new, in violation of Medicare regulations. In addition, the U.S. alleged that The SCOOTER Store charged Medicare millions for unnecessary power mobility accessories."

 Note:  The Scooter Store spent $1 million + lobbying Congress to maintain the previous Medicare reimbursements for wheelchairs.

 

Minimum Wage Increase by $3 Proposed in New Legislation

Minimum wage in the U.S.A. is currently $7.25 per hour.  State laws passed to increase minimum wage in a state does trump the national minimum wage law as does city municipalities with special legislation passed, such as the cities of San Francisco and San Jose who have both increased minimum wage for workers in their cities.  Caregiverlist provides the minimum wage in each state.

Caregivers working for professional senior care companies have an average pay nationwide of $10 per hour, higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Payroll taxes are also paid on top of the hourly rate, providing for unemployment benefits (seniors who need care will eventually get better and no longer need care or pass away and so having the safety net of knowing unemployment insurance will be provided while a caregiver finds a new job is an important benefit for caregivers).  Worker's compensation insurance and Social Security benefits are also paid for on top of the caregiver salary.

The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, the name of the proposed legislation, would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers which currently stands at $2.13 per hour.  This would be the first raise for this group of workers in more than 20 years........I was a waitress to pay my way through college and I remember the $2 dollars and change was just enough to pay a bit towards the taxes.  The proposed increase would make the tipped worker wage 70% of the minimum wage.  

As senior caregivers are needed for new positions at senior care companies nationwide, passing a higher federal minimum wage will only help promote quality pay for quality care for America's seniors.

State minimum wage laws vary, with many states requiring $8 or more per hour already.  Review state minimum wage laws.

Caregivers earn more than minimum wage, even with no formal caregiving experience.  Apply for a senior caregiver job, either part-time or full-time, in your area and refer-a-friend to be a caregiver as more caregivers are always needed to keep up with the growing caregiving needs as our senior population increases.  Caregivers can obtain online caregiver training to become a professional certified senior caregiver through the Professional Association of Caregivers.

 

 

 

Caregivers Needed: Caregiver Jobs Continue to Grow Nationwide

Senior caregivers are needed, so much so that U.S. News & World Report outlines the need for immigration reform in order to provide enough professional senior caregivers, home health aides and nursing aides for the growing U.S. senior population.

Senior caregiving jobs continue to grow in all cities and towns nationwide as many seniors choose to age-in-place in their own home.  

Part-time, full-time and live-in positions are available - - remember, live-in caregivers do not actually move in to live with the senior but instead stay over-night at the senior's homes for 2 to 3 days in a row and then go back to their own home.  Live-in caregivers earn a full week's pay in a few days.

Part-time senior caregiver jobs often involve simply assisting a senior with meals and medication reminders and companionship.

Apply for a senior caregiver job in your area as no experience is required for beginning caregiver positions as senior care companies will provide you with training.

Caregiver training for basic professional senior caregiving skills can be found through the Professional Association of Caregivers 10-hour online training course.

Refer-a-Friend to a senior caregiver job position and be entered to win $50 and meet our previous Refer-a-Friend winners.

Caregivers enjoy the fulfillment they receive by assisting a senior to enjoy a day by knowing they have assistance for the activities they no longer can easily do on their own.  Caregiving just may be the most fulfiling job you will ever find, knowing you are appreciated by not only the senior you are helping, but their entire family and their friends.  As the need for more caregivers is needed, spread the word to others. You may learn more about employment as a professional senior caregiver on the Caregiverlist Career Center.

Live-in Caregiver Jobs Do Not Require "Moving-in" with the Senior: Earn a Full Week's Pay in a Few Days

Live-in Caregivers are in demand and the job position will continue to grow as seniors choose to age-in-place in their own homes.  However, while "live-in caregiver' is a common senior care industry term, it can be confusing for everyone else to understand.  As more and more live-in senior caregivers will be needed, we thought we would share a few fast facts about live-in positions for professional senior caregivers.  You may apply for a professional caregiving job, including live-in positions, in your area, on Caregiverlist.

Live-in Caregiver FAQ's"

What is the job description for a live-in senior caregiver?  

Live-in senior caregivers assist seniors with all activities of daily living, including with meal preparation and clean-up, household tasks such as laundry, managing medical appointments and medication reminders in addition to basic caregiving duties.  Seniors with memory loss or who need assistance with mobility will often require full-time live-in caregiving services.  Learn about senior caregiver job duties for professional caregivers.

What schedule does a Live-in Caregiver work?

A live-in caregiver will go to a senior client's home in the morning to begin their shift and stay for a few days at a time, always working solid 24-hour blocks of time.  The caregiver does sleep at night and also receives a couple of hours of down-time each evening.  Most senior care companies rotate 2 professional senior caregivers, with one caregiver working Monday through Thursday, for example, and the second caregiver working Thursday through Monday morning.  Usually the caregiver team will fill-in for each other if one needs to change their schedule to accommodate personal needs.

What are the advantages of working as a Live-in Caregiver?

Caregivers who have been working in facilities such as hospitals and nursing homes often find that live-in caregiving delivers the advantage of managing care for one client and the added benefit of only needing to commute to the senior client's home once per week.  The elimination of multiple managers and co-workers can be welcoming to many.  In addition, the live-in caregiver has the additional rewards of being able to socialize with the senior and participate in activities which they may find enjoyable.  For instance, maybe a senior usually goes to lunch at a certain restaurant each week.  The live-in caregiver will accompany them and join in for lunch.  Sometimes there will be family functions and even trips which the caregiver will escort the senior on.  One live-in caregiver flew to Australia with their senior client for a family vacation.  Some live-in caregivers will drive the senior in the senior's car.  The benefit of sharing the senior's lifetime of wisdom and experiences can be both fun and fulfilling for the caregiver.

How much are Live-in Caregivers paid?

Live-in senior caregivers receive a daily stipend which usually is between $90 and $160 per day, with all payroll taxes and insurances paid for in addition to this (allowing professional senior caregivers to be able to collect Social Security benefits for their own retirement).  In addition, meals are provided for and additional activities required by the senior are also provided.  The caregiver will receive their own bedroom and usually be able to choose their own food for meals.  The caregiver may go grocery shopping with the senior or for the senior and have a separate budget for their own food.  Other times the caregiver will be able to order food through Peapod or another service or create the meal plan for the food they will prepare and share with the senior.  Usually a routine will be created for the senior and this will also include a schedule for meals.  Many times senior caregivers will take pride in sharing their cooking skills - everyone has at least one great meal they can prepare, right?  Or has a family recipe that everyone loves.  The caregiver can showcase their cooking skills to the senior and know they are being appreciated.  As the owner of a senior home care agency, I can share that oftentimes the live-in caregivers would both want to prepare their own Thanksgiving meal for the senior, separate from any family celebrations.  We would work with the caregivers to make sure their schedules would allow for this and the senior and caregiver would get to have 2 Thanksgivings or Christmas dinners.  This also provides a peek into how enjoyable live-in caregiving can be - - true relationships form as you share the retirement years with a senior.  In addition, many times seniors will live in homes that have a great view or offer other amenities that you may have seen on HGTV or in magazines but never experienced, from gardens to decks to pools to beautiful yards and you are able to enjoy this lifestyle while working as a live-in caregiver.

What training is required to work as a Live-in Caregiver?  Anyone with a caring personality and the availability to stay overnight at a senior's home can work as a live-in caregiver.  Training is provided for each client's care plan and sometimes the most important training required involves understanding medical requirements for a special diet or medication monitoring. Basic senior caregiving skills can be learned through a 10-hour online training course and most senior home care agencies will also provide their own customized training.

Apply for a live-in senior caregiving position in your area on Caregiverlist or refer-a-friend to a caregiving job for the chance to win $50.  Live-in caregiving services will continue to increase as the Baby Boomer population ages-in-place.  Build a caregiving resume and enjoy the experience of not only obtaining pay for assisting a senior but also receiving the fulfillment of making their senior years more enjoyable as they are able to stay in their home.

 

 

Caregiver Training: Online Training for Professional Senior Caregivers

Caregiver training requirements vary in each state in the U.S.A. but look for more states to pass legislation requiring specific training and mandating training programs to be passed before working as a professional senior caregiver.  This is because senior care truly does require many skills and this includes understanding how to safely monitor medications, manage nutrition and physical and mental exercise.  As elder abuse can also be an issue, professional caregivers are trained to monitor for signs of abuse (remember, the #1 type of elder abuse is financial).

Illinois caregivers must now complete a training program to learn the basic senior care skills and this training can now be obtained online through a 10-hour training course.  More than 33 states require some type of training with Florida and New Jersey leading the way for home health aide certification training.

Caregiver training courses include the following skills, for basic professional caregiving job duties:

  • Duties of a Caregiver
  • Communication with Others
  • Observation, Reporting and Recording
  • Providing Personal Care
  • Promoting and Maintaining Good Mobility
  • Elimination and Toileting
  • Infection Control
  • Environmental Hazards and Safety
  • Basic First Aid
  • Understanding Elder Abuse

Certified caregiver training can be purchased through an online caregiver training course which caregivers may take at their own pace.  Once caregivers pass the course at 80%, they will be certified and may explore additional training programs for memory loss and consider becoming a Certified Nursing Aide.  C.N.A. programs are administered in all states of the U.S.A. and require working in the field and passing the state C.N.A. exam.  Take a sample C.N.A. test to learn more about certified nursing assistant training in the Caregiverlist C.N.A. School Directory.

 

 

 

Caregiving Jobs and Options for Spanish Speakers

Professional senior caregivers assist seniors with activities of daily living, including companion caregiving for seniors with memory loss and nursing care for seniors who need assistance with bathing and eating.  Many seniors living in the U.S.A. speak Spanish as a first language or second language and this week AARP Viva! Radio invited Caregiverlist's "Caregiver Sherpa" Juan Padilla to host a radio show about senior care options and senior caregiving jobs.

Spanish-speaking senior caregivers may listen to Juan's tips and suggestions on the recorded AARP Viva! Radio program.  

Caregiving jobs are available nationwide and include part-time and full-time positions.  Seniors may research nursing homes in their area and review the daily costs along with ratings or find a licensed senior home care agency as they plan for their senior care.

 

 

AARP VIVA Radio Features Caregiverlist.com Today: 2pm Central Time

Senior care impacts everyone, including Americans who speak Spanish as their first language (or preferred language).   A recent estimates shows more than 50 million Americans enjoy a hispanic heritage and there are 3.7 million residents of Puerto Rico.  This makes people of a Hispanic origin the nation's largest ethnic or race minority.

AARP VIVA, a publication and radio show by the American Association of Retired Persons will highlight Caregiverlist.com's information and services today on their 2:00 p.m. show on VIVA Radio.

Medicare and Medicaid questions and professional senior caregiving options are concerns for all Americans and AARP VIVA Radio will explain Caregiverlist's useful tools for seniors and professional caregivers today.

We hope all those speaking Espanol will be able to listen!  Just turn your dial to or go to AARP VIVA Radio online.

 

Caregiver Pay Average $10 per Hour and $120 per day

Caregiver pay results from the Caregiverlist Employment Index compiled from survey results of more than 18,000 professional caregiver job applicants in 2012 shows $10 per hour and $120 per day as the national average for professional caregiver pay.  

Caregiver pay at this rate is higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and higher than the majority of minimum wages nationwide (states and cities may pass their own minimum wage laws and as long as they are more than the national minimum wage requirement, they will over-ride the national law). You may review minimum wage laws nationwide on Caregiverlist's By-state section.

Ten states passed an increase in minimum wage effective January, 2013, including Arizona raising their minimum wage to $7.80.  Other states raising minimum wages included Missouri increasing to $7.35 per hour, Colorado increasing to $7.78 per hour Ohio increasing to $7.85 per hour.

Meanwhile, two municipal cities in California require a much higher minimum wage, with San Francisco's minimum wage at $10.55 and San Jose's minimum wage at $10 per hour.  Of course, cost of living is higher in these cities which also enjoy being located in Silicon Valley, home of a higher percentage of millionaires due to the luck of the stock options for employees working for the fast-growth technology companies.

Caregivers will continue to be needed in the growing senior care industry which has experienced a 40% increase in the number of senior home care companies since 2008.

Becoming a professional senior caregiver requires a caring personality, successfully passing a criminal background check and basic caregiver training which can be obtained online or from the hiring senior care company.  Apply to be a senior caregiver with a professional senior care company in your area or refer-a-friend to be a senior caregiver and win a $50 gift certificate.

 

 

 

National Nursing Assistants Week Celebrates CNAs

We at Caregiverlist.com recognize the important role that Certified Nursing Assistants play in the care of our elderly, frail and challenged population. We’ve made the advocacy and appreciation of CNAs one of the cornerstones of our mission.

We celebrate the 35th annual National Nursing Assistants Week from June 14-21. As our nation matures and more people choose to age in place, CNAs are a vital component to our health and well-being. We also recognize that Certified Nursing Aides provide as much as 80% of the direct care in nursing facilities.

CNAs are on the front-line of caring. They provide most of the hands-on interaction with their patients. They can be found in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospices and private homes. Certified Nursing Assistants’ duties and responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Dietary care and nutrition
  • Assistance with daily excercise
  • Aiding with personal hygiene
  • Administering medication and treatment per doctor’s recommendation
  • Providing emotional support
It’s a noble and challenging profession, and an employment sector that is guaranteed to grow in the coming years. If you are a family caregiver looking for a career, we can help answer your questions. If you are a companion or personal caregiver, consider CNA training to enhance your skill set and make you a more attractive employment candidate. And of course, if there is a Certified Nursing Assistant somewhere in your life providing care for you or a loved one, now is the perfect time to voice your appreciation for all they do.

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Posted by: Renata Jasinski Laszuk, Content Manager

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