Your elderly aunt refused to use a cane when her arthritis began to affect her mobility, but after several falls, you've convinced her to get a walker. Medicare, the government's healthcare program for the over-65 crowd, can help pay for her walker -- if her condition meets certain criteria. In 2014, Medicare Part B provided 80 percent of the purchase or rental of such assistive devices when medically necessary.
Qualifying for Coverage
Your aunt must be enrolled in Part B, or in a Medicare Advantage plan that includes Part B. A participating Medicare healthcare provider has to do an examination to confirm her need and write a prescription for the walker. The doctor must specifically document the need for a particular device -- and that the device is necessary for the patient to function in her home.
Medicare won't approve a walker purchase from just any source. It must be from a participating enrolled supplier, which Medicare identifies on its website, medicare.gov. Your aunt is responsible for any deductible she may have, but the suppliers will bill Medicare directly for its 80 percent share. An enrolled supplier will manage the paperwork and fit the patient with an appropriate walker. Some advanced models may not be available, but the supplier can negotiate for new equipment when a patient's condition changes.
- Medicare.gov: When and How to Sign Up for Part A and B
- Medicare.gov: Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment and Other Devices
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Coverage of Assistive Technologies and Personal Assistive Services
- Center for Medicare Advocacy: The Medicare Part B Durable Medical Equipment (DME) Benefit
- University of Texas Health Science Center: Geriatric Assistive Devices (See pp. 408-409 for appropriate diagnoses))
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