Epidemiology of medicare abuse: The example of power wheelchairs

James S. Goodwin, Tracy U. Nguyen-Oghalai, Yong Fang Kuo, Kenneth J. Ottenbacher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To determine the effect of neighborhood ethnic composition on power wheelchair prescriptions. DESIGN: The 5% noncancer sample of Medicare recipients in the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare linked database, from 1994 to 2001. SETTING: SEER regions. PARTICIPANTS: Individuals covered by Medicare living in SEER regions without a cancer diagnosis. MEASUREMENTS: Individual characteristics (age, sex, ethnicity, justifying diagnosis, and comorbidity), primary diagnoses, neighborhood characteristics (percentage black, percentage Hispanic, percentage with <12 years education, and median income), and SEER region. RESULTS: The rate of power wheelchair prescriptions was 33 times greater in 2001 than in 1994, with a shift over time from justifying diagnoses more closely tied to mobility impairment, such as strokes, to less-specific medical diagnoses, such as osteoarthritis. In multilevel, multivariate analyses, individuals living in neighborhoods with higher percentages of blacks or Hispanics were more likely to receive power wheelchairs (odds ratios=1.09 for each 10% increase in black residents and 1.23 for each 10% increase in Hispanic residents) after controlling for ethnicity and other characteristics at the individual level. CONCLUSION: These results support allegations that marketers promoting power wheelchairs have specifically targeted minority neighborhoods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)221-226
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2007


  • Abuse
  • Ethnicity
  • Fraud
  • Policy
  • Power wheelchair

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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