Pushin' On: UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System Digital Newsletter Volume 34 | Number 1
VOL 34 | NUM 1
UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System Digital Newsletter
The University of Alabama at
Birmingham Spinal Cord Injury
Model System (UAB-SCIMS)
provides Pushin’ On twice annually
as an informational resource for
people with spinal cord injury (SCI).
UAB-SCIMS Program Director:
Amie B McLain, MD
Pushin’ On Editor: Phil Klebine, MA
529 Spain Rehabilitation Center
1717 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233-7330
The contents of this
publication were developed
under a grant from the
National Institute on Disability, Independent
Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR
grant number H133N110008). NIDILRR
is a Center within the Administration for
Community Living (ACL), Department
of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The contents of this publication do not
necessarily represent the policy of NIDILRR,
ACL, HHS, and you should not assume
endorsement by the Federal Government.
©2015 University of Alabama Board of Trustees. The
University of Alabama at Birmingham provides equal
opportunity in education and employment.
UPDATE! In the last issue of Pushin’ On, we asked you, our readers, to
contact your federal legislators to prevent the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services (CMS) from cutting reimbursement rates for Complex
rehab technology (CRT) components. These components are medically
necessary, individually-configured manual and power wheelchair
systems, adaptive seating systems, alternative positioning systems,
and other mobility devices that require evaluation, fitting, configuration,
adjustment or programming. These cuts would have made it very
difficult or, in most cases, impossible for people with severe disabilities
to get the vital CRT components they need.
The UAB Spinal Cord Injury Model System (UAB-SCIMS) is happy
to report that Congress did pass the Patient Access and Medicare
Protection Act that included a delay in the planned reduced pricing on
CRT by CMS. First, we thank everyone who took action to help in this
victory for people with severe disabilities. Second, we stress that the
recently passed Act only delays the CMS from making cuts to CRT. We
will likely have to fight this battle again soon.
Thank you. - Phil Klebine, Editor.
Exoskeleton technologies are once again in the news. In February,
suitX launched its Phoenix exoskeleton. It costs $40,000, which is not
cheap, but the company claims it is currently “the least expensive of all
exoskeletons.” It weighs 27 pounds, making it also one of the lightest
exoskeletons currently out there. The battery life offers up to 4-hours of
continuous walking time and a maximum walking speed of 1.1 MPH.
In March, the FDA approved the Indego exoskeleton for both clinical
and personal at-home use. The Indego is priced at about $80,000. It
weighs in at 26 pounds, which is also among the lightest exoskeletons.
Indego’s battery life is also listed at about 4 hours of use, but the
company brochure does not mention a maximum walking speed.
In April, Ekso Bionics gained FDA approval for its Ekso GT
exoskeleton. While other exoskeletons are approved for use with
persons with paraplegia, the Exso GT is the first exoskeleton cleared
for use with persons with injury levels from T3 to C7 (ASIA D) in a rehab
setting. It is not approved for home use. There are no details on weight,
speed and cost found on the website.
All have unique features, but the big question remains: who will pay
for it? Although the ReWalk exoskeleton is now covered by the US
Department of Veterans Affairs at a cost of around $70,000, there is no
Medicare/Medicaid “rate code” for exoskeletons. Without a rate code,
there is no health insurance payment and no reimbursed for up to 80%
of the cost as a medical device. Getting that rate code might take years.
Until then, the cost is out of pocket.
It is obvious, though, exoskeleton technologies are quickly evolving.
Units are getting lighter and more compact. Battery life is getting longer.
Units are getting modular. Exoskeleton technologies may be on the path
to one day replace manual wheelchairs.