MS. WHEELCHAIR AMERICA 2023 – HERE I COME!

It’s hard to believe that nearly 10 months have passed since being crowned Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina 2022.  I have been engaging in so many advocacy activities over the last year to further my advocacy mission. 

I am just a week away from heading out to Ms. Wheelchair America 2023 to compete with 22 other amazing wheelchair advocates in a competition that is going to create memories for a lifetime.

I looked up some of my amazing competitors, some of whom are actually friends of mine, and they all have fantastic platforms engaging in meaningful work to make our society more inclusive to folks with disabilities.  It certainly going to be stiff competition for sure.

I know people who lose competitions probably say this all the time, but honestly, WIN or LOSE I am certain of one thing.  All of the advocacy work I engage in around the country and globally involve collaborating with people.  I don’t just mean anyone, but rock-star disability advocates in their own respective fields regardless of what disability they may have.

So, I KNOW THIS FOR SURE — I will be collaborating and partnering with many of these rock-star women for years to come on so many different missions in the name of making the world we live in more inclusive for future generations.  I commend those that came before me and it is only fair that I do my part for those who will take over in the decades to come.

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Adaptive Exercise Equipment Legislation Introduced in North Carolina

This is a super proud advocacy moment for me!

Many of you that know me, know that I spend much of my time battling health insurance companies and helping individuals get the medically necessary durable medical equipment they need to not only survive in life but to thrive.  Over the last two years I’ve taken my mission one step further to focus on having adaptive exercise equipment for long-term wheelchair users put under a “Medical Necessity” Review under Durable Medical equipment. 

Today as it stands, under Medicare and private health insurance companies, any type of exercise equipment is considered a non-covered benefit item.  This means it does not have a code and will not get approved.  Unless you have specific laws in your state, are part of the VA, or have an “in,” you’re not going to have much luck in getting approval. I know … I’ve been fighting for an adaptive rowing machine called the Vitaglide for 2 years — With no luck I might add.  Even after writing a 35 page Letter of Medical Necessity backed up by over 130 peer reviewed journal articles, which took me 4 months to research & write, I was treading water.

Despite my 24 month herculean effort I still failed.

Step 2

I then decided to take my mission to Blue Cross and Blue Shield directly.  Through a series of internal contacts and help from the North Carolina Department of Insurance I started working with multiple policy directors.  I gave speeches, had zoom calls, created videos, and more.  This was a four tedious process trying to make a financial and medical argument for preventative healthcare for adaptive exercise equipment for long-term wheelchair users to be reclassified.  Honestly, this epically failed and several months ago I received a beautiful blow-off letter from Blue Cross and Blue Shield.  No bites.  You can see the attached letter yourself.

Step 3

Have no fear.  I was working behind the scenes with my North Carolina State Senator Jay Chauduri on this very issue.  In May 2020 we finally introduced legislation trying to mandate health insurance companies to put adaptive exercise equipment for long-term wheelchair users under a medical necessity review.  Very proud of this accomplishment.  However, I’m acutely and painfully aware, I might add, the success of this bill is slim to none.  However, this creates a beginning legislative track record for me.  I am now working on different plans over the next nine months to introduce more legislation.

It’s going to be a very long road, I’ve heaved advice from so many around the country, but I’m also kind of a one woman show on this front.  I just keep pushing and pushing and pushing.  I’m ridiculously determined, pleasantly persistent, and will continue down this road is long as there is someone to listen to me.

I simply won’t stop.  I don’t know how to give up.  I never have.  As Winston Churchill famously quoted “The Definition of Success is Moving from Failure to Failure without Lack of Enthusiasm.”  I live by this quote on a daily basis living with a long-term severe physical disability.

Change can start with one person.  You may not be able to affect national change by yourself, but you can ignite that spark in others, create a movement, and while you may not accomplish what you would like to in a year or two or 10 — I have no doubt I will ignite a spark in the younger generations to continue my work for many years to come!

Pushing Boundaries – Question the Status Quo!

Many of you know I’ve been fighting for an adaptive rowing machine called the Vitaglide for some time now with Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

I hit a dead end working directly with BCBS policy directors and I’m now introducing legislation with NC State Senator Jay Chaudhri in May. Very exciting!

In the meantime, I’m working closely with all of the folks at Vitaglide for promotion awareness of adapted exercise equipment for long-term wheelchair users.

They were so kind to write an article on me and all of the work I’m trying to accomplish with respect to health equity and not just health equality!

Every time I fail something, and I do fail quite a lot, or something stops dead in its tracks, I usually have 10 other things in the works.

Life can be utterly exhausting, but I know one person can make a difference even if it is only to inspire others to carry on the work they have started!

Thank you Vitaglide team for highlighting some of the work I am engaged in and spotlighting my consistent efforts for which I won Miss wheelchair North Carolina 2022 on — Health Insurance Advocacy! Nationals here I come in Grand Rapids Michigan from August 15th to August 21st!

www.vitaglide.com/one-determined-woman/

A CRUSHING DEFEAT – BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD – CREATING A RIPPLE EFFECT

You work so hard for so long on a specific project only to have it practically blow up in your face.  I’ve been working with Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy directors for the last six months and I recently received beautiful “BS” letter as they say stating that my efforts to have adaptive exercise equipment reviewed under medical necessity was not going to be an option.

I have tried to play nice, it did not work, and that’s okay.  I’ve simultaneously been working on legislation on multiple fronts to be introduced over the next few months and few years from different angles.  I always try the path of least resistance first, this does not always work out, but it does not deter me either.

If you’ve been following my health insurance battles you will want to take a close read of this one because my entire disability advocacy career started out with health insurance equity.  It is naturally a passion project near and dear to my heart and one which I will continue to fight for on so many fronts.  What will ultimately end up happening is having to create a coalition of seriously smart lawyers, doctors, advocates, etc. in years to come.  This mission is going to be measured in many years, not months.

Fortunately, my spinal cord injury has taught me the definition of extreme patience.  For this I am thankful!

I may Sisyphus rolling the boulder up the mountain only for it to come crashing down on me.  However, I will start rolling the boulder back up the mountain in real time!  I will break the cycle eventually in the name of HEALTH EQUITY, and not just Health Equality.

Check out the Article on Push Living Magazine:

A CRUSHING DEFEAT – BLUE CROSS AND BLUE SHIELD – CREATING A RIPPLE EFFECT