People with serious illnesses or disabilities may need medical equipment such as crutches, leg or arm braces, walkers, hospital beds or wheelchairs in their homes. Other medical equipment likely to be needed in a home care environment include home oxygen equipment, dressings, syringes and IV supplies, adult disposable briefs, supplies for tube feedings, hearing aids, colostomy supplies and equipment used for physical or occupational therapy exercises. These supplies can be quite costly.
Medicare insures most Americans age 65 and older, as well as many of the disabled, and through Part B pays a significant portion of the cost of durable medical equipment prescribed for beneficiaries. Medicare Part B also pays for a broad range of diabetes testing supplies and related equipment. If you do not already receive Medicare, contact the Social Security Administration at 800-772-1213 to find out if you qualify.
Some people with low incomes, including some elderly and disabled people, rely on Medicaid to pay for medical care. Medicaid coverage varies somewhat from state to state but it usually covers prescribed medically necessary equipment. Medicaid will sometimes cover medical supplies for home use like dressings and syringes for injectable medications as well. Some people have both Medicare and Medicaid, in which case Medicaid usually covers the portion of the bills for medical equipment that Medicare does not cover. If you do not already receive Medicaid, you can apply at your local welfare office.
Several foundations offer grants that will help pay for medical equipment, including the United Healthcare Children’s Fund and the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund. Eligibility criteria varies from foundation to foundation, and funds are often limited, but such grants provide much-needed assistance to some people in need. Grants can often be used for durable medical equipment as well as disposable supplies like dressings and adult disposable briefs.
Some community organizations help pay for medical equipment for people in need. For instance, the Lions Club's focus of service is vision care and glasses, and may also help pay for hearing aids. Catholic charities, community action agencies, churches and other organizations may help, but it varies from community to community. You can call your local United Way to ask about possible sources of assistance where you live.
Mike Andrews is a freelance writer and serial entrepreneur focused on small-business and entrepreneurship for average people. He holds a bachelor's degree in biblical studies and a master's degree in theology and has appeared in a wide array of print and online periodicals including "HiCall," "Mature Living" and "Caregivers Home Companion."