By Justin Mannato - Varney & Co. Producer
We talk a lot about “Entitlement Nation” on Varney & Co. And here’s one example our team always seems to point to: motorized scooters. A recent report in the Tampa Bay Times says those scooters, meant to help people walk again, are actually bad for you. They’re a disincentive to walk again. And a lot of the people who use them, don’t even need them. I witnessed this last part myself.
I just returned from a five-day whirlwind tour of Disney World with my family. Taking your child to Disney is indeed a magical experience, albeit exhausting. However, when you go there you also take in the vile underbelly of America. The impatience of parents. The insolence of children. A little nutritional and financial gluttony here and there. But nothing to me was worse than seeing dozens upon dozens of lazy, entitled Americans chauffering themselves around the park in motorized scooters.
I’m not talking about wheelchairs here. Wheelchairs are for people with disabilities or injuries. For the handicapped and the elderly. That’s totally acceptable. But these scooter slobs make me sick. And that’s exactly what they are: slobs. Lazy, entitled, overweight slobs.
For the perhaps one or two of these people who maybe – just, maybe - were using these scooters for legitimate reasons, I apologize if my characterization sounds unkind. After all, I admit I did not conduct a formal poll on the reasons these people were unable to walk. I was often too busy dodging them as they sped ahead of me to get in line for the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I did, however, conduct an informal poll with my eyes. And they told me that all of these people were overweight. Some of them obese. Some of them, like the man who saw I was wearing a Yankees shirt and struck up a conservation with me in the men’s room about the team’s prospects this year, were just plain lazy. You see that guy walked perfectly and quickly past me out of the restroom and back to his scooter.
I know this makes me sound insensitive. But I bring you back to that article in the Tampa Bay Times that says these “mobility devices,” which is how they’ve been marketed, actually take away a person’s incentive to walk. Of course it does. That’s what I saw over five otherwise fun-filled days in Disney. Why walk when you could get a scooter – free from Medicare no less? (Granted, most if not all of the scooters I saw in Disney were rented.) But the gravy train, or scooter train if you will, is coming to a stop. According to that Times report, Medicare spent $723 million on power wheelchairs and scooters in 2009, the last year for which figures are available. That’s ¾ of a BILLION dollars. On scooters. And get this: quoting directly from the article, “at least 60% of claims for the scooters were paid despite shoddy paperwork or were for devices the recipient didn’t need.”
Didn’t need. I saw one or two people in Disney World who were so big they probably would have had a hard time walking. For them, I admit I passed judgment on their lifestyle. Obviously, none of us is perfect including me. But the vast majority of people getting rides to the rides were able to walk. They just didn’t want to. That’s entitlement nation for you at its very worst. My mother-in-law, on the other hand, hobbled by a recent knee replacement surgery and herself admittedly a little overweight, would never have thought to use a scooter. She walked everywhere with us. Never complained. And she was right there with me, annoyed and disgusted by these scooter slobs.
The 2008 Disney Pixar movie Wall-E depicts a futuristic world in which earth is uninhabitable. What humans remain live on a spaceship. And they’re all overweight slobs who get around on mobilized scooters. In one scene, you see pictures of the captains of the spaceship through the years. And they keep getting fatter.
I worry that life is intimidating art in America.
- Behind the Scenes