DENVER (KDVR) — One state representative is on a mission this session to pass bills that would help the disabled community.
One of his measures aimed to help students with disabilities better navigate college cleared a preliminary vote in the House Monday. He is hoping two others follow suit soon.
“We aren’t talking about a pair of shoes, we’re talking about someone taking away their legs,” veteran and Rep. David Ortiz said.
Ortiz is the only wheelchair-bound lawmaker at the state Capitol. He knows firsthand how difficult everyday tasks can be for people with disabilities. Two bills being heard this week look to help people in motorized and manual wheelchairs get parts for the chairs faster.
“I’m not in a power chair yet but certain parts, whether we’re talking about batteries or software updates, I’ve heard that it could take six months up to a year and that’s not unusual,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz is co-sponsoring a bill that would require chair manufacturers to provide certain parts that break often, allowing wheelchair users to fix the parts themselves rather than waiting on the manufacturers to replace the parts at their leisure.
If manufacturers do not comply, they would be hit with claims of deceptive trade practices.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” Ortiz said. “Everyone in the community is excited. Not all providers are excited because they don’t want the accountability piece but we wouldn’t need the accountability piece if this wasn’t an issue. So we’re trying to incentivize good behavior by removing some of the required preapprovals and upping some of the reimbursement rates for some of these repairs. But we want some accountability there.”
Ortiz is also on a second measure that would prohibit Medicaid from requiring pre-authorization for the parts users are getting as well as increased reimbursement rates for people in rural areas that have to drive further for the items. Ortiz said the goal is to make life easier all around for people in wheelchairs.
Both measures are set to be heard in committee Tuesday afternoon.