Amigo scooter grows in popularity but not fully covered by Medicare

Bernard McFarlane and Gloria Copello, residents of Abby Park in Grand Blanc, said they don't know what they would without their Amigos. / Chad Britton

Bernard McFarlane, a paraplegic has used his Amigo for three years.

It TMs my car. That TMs what it is now, said McFarlane.

The electric scooter is the choice electric machine among residents at Abby Park, a senior retirement community in Grand Blanc.

Surprising considering they are hard to come by for many seniors on Medicare since the scooters are only partially reimbursed.

"I like this best because I can ride around the building which is four tenths of a mile and these will go 26 miles without a recharge."

Al Thieme owner of Amigo Mobility International, started manufacturing and selling Amigos in Bridgeport more than 40 years ago for a family member who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

I put this unit together and since it was such a friend to her we named it Amigo," said Thieme.

Originally a majority of Thieme TMs clients were people using Amigos in their homes but Thieme says when Medicare funding became available for mobility equipment, suppliers saw the opportunity to supply an expensive power wheelchair.

Thieme TMs business eventually expanded to grocery stores and that TMs 90% of his business today, but it's people with mobility issues he would like to cater too.

"We're so very good at that and it's unfortunate that we have been moved out of that market."

Amigos run about $2000 to $3000 and a powered wheelchair can cost about $5000 to $9000. While the wheel chair is more expensive than an Amigo many wind up with one because it TMs Medicare covers more of the cost.

"If a person wants mobility they should pay equally for our unit or a power wheelchair and Medicare would save millions of dollars," said Thieme.

McFarlane says he was lucky the first time around since he bought his Amigo used but he doesn TMt know what he TMll do when he needs another one.

I love it i don't want to be without it."