What Wheelchairs are Covered by Medicare? A Complete Overview

Navigating the world of healthcare and insurance can be daunting, especially when you need essential equipment like wheelchairs. If you’re wondering about Medicare’s coverage for wheelchairs, you’re in the right place. 

Understanding Medicare’s Approach to Mobility

Before we delve into specifics, we must understand how Medicare views mobility aids. Medicare recognizes the importance of mobility for seniors and those with disabilities.

As a result, they offer coverage for Durable Medical Equipment (DME), which includes wheelchairs, under certain conditions.

Medicare Part B: Your Go-To for Wheelchair Coverage

Medicare Part B is the segment of Medicare that covers outpatient services. Under Part B, beneficiaries can get coverage for DME, including wheelchairs, if deemed medically necessary.

Medically Necessary? What Does That Mean?

In simple terms, “medically necessary” means that a doctor or healthcare provider has determined that the wheelchair is essential for your daily activities and health. It’s not just about wanting a wheelchair; it’s about genuinely needing one for medical reasons.

How to Qualify for Medicare Coverage for a Wheelchair

To qualify for Medicare coverage for a wheelchair, you must meet the following criteria:

  • You must have a medical need for a wheelchair. This means that you must have a condition that makes it difficult or impossible for you to walk without assistance.
  • Your doctor must prescribe a wheelchair. Your doctor must also provide a written order stating that you need a wheelchair and can use it safely.
  • You must use the wheelchair in your home. Medicare will not cover wheelchairs that are used primarily outside of the home.

What You Need to Do to Get a Wheelchair Covered by Medicare

Does Medicare Pay For Senior Walkers

To get a wheelchair covered by Medicare, you will need to follow these steps:

  1. Get a prescription from your doctor. Your doctor must prescribe a wheelchair and state that you need it for a medical condition.
  2. Find a Medicare-approved durable medical equipment (DME) supplier. DME suppliers are companies that sell and rent medical equipment. You can find a Medicare-approved DME supplier by using the Medicare website.
  3. Contact the DME supplier and request a wheelchair. The DME supplier will need authorization from Medicare before they can provide you with a wheelchair.
  4. Once the DME supplier has received prior authorization from Medicare, you can pick up your wheelchair. Depending on your Medicare plan, you may be required to pay a deductible and coinsurance.

Types of Manual Wheelchairs Covered by Medicare

Medicare covers a variety of manual wheelchairs, including:

  • Standard wheelchairs: Standard wheelchairs are the most basic type of manual wheelchair. They have a fixed frame and seat and are typically made of steel.
  • Lightweight wheelchairs: Lightweight wheelchairs are made of aluminum or titanium, which makes them easier to propel and transport.
  • Heavy-duty wheelchairs: Heavy-duty wheelchairs are designed for people who weigh more than average. They typically have a wider frame and seat and are made of durable materials.
  • Folding wheelchairs: Folding wheelchairs are convenient for travel and storage. They can be folded up and easily transported in a car or plane.

Types of Power Wheelchairs Covered by Medicare

Medicare covers a variety of power wheelchairs, including:

  • Standard power wheelchairs: Standard power wheelchairs have a basic frame and seat, typically controlled using a joystick or a control pad.
  • Lightweight power wheelchairs: Lightweight power wheelchairs are made of aluminum or titanium, which makes them easier to transport.
  • Heavy-duty power wheelchairs: Heavy-duty power wheelchairs are designed for people who weigh more than average. They typically have a wider frame and seat and are made of durable materials.
  • Folding power wheelchairs: Folding power wheelchairs are convenient for travel and storage. They can be folded up and easily transported in a car or plane.

Other Types of Wheelchairs That May Be Covered by Medicare

In addition to manual and power wheelchairs, Medicare may also cover other types of wheelchairs, such as:

  • Wheelchairs with special features: Medicare may cover wheelchairs with special features, such as reclining seats, elevating leg rests, and headrests.
  • Wheelchairs for children: Medicare may cover wheelchairs for children who have a medical need for them.
  • Wheelchairs for specific medical conditions: Medicare may cover wheelchairs for people with specific medical conditions, such as cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, and spinal cord injuries.

How to Find Out if Medicare Covers Your Wheelchair

If you are unsure whether Medicare covers your wheelchair, contact your Medicare plan or a Medicare-approved DME supplier. They can help you determine if your wheelchair is covered and what you must do to get it covered.

Costs Involved

While Medicare covers a significant portion of the wheelchair cost, it doesn’t cover everything. Typically, you’ll pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and the Part B deductible applies. To avoid surprises, it’s always a good idea to check upfront with your supplier about costs.

Maintenance and Repairs

Life happens, and sometimes wheelchairs need repairs. The good news? Medicare covers repairs and maintenance for the wheelchairs they’ve helped you purchase. Just ensure you use a Medicare-approved supplier for these services.

Key Takeaway

Navigating Medicare’s wheelchair coverage might seem complex, but with the right information, it becomes manageable. Remember, the key is to ensure that the wheelchair is medically necessary and to always use Medicare-approved suppliers. With patience and guidance, you’ll be on your way to enhanced mobility.

Frequently Asked Questions: Medicare’s Wheelchair Coverage

Can I choose any brand or model of a wheelchair under Medicare’s coverage? 

No, not all brands or models are covered. Medicare typically covers wheelchairs that meet specific criteria and are from Medicare-approved suppliers. You must check with your supplier to ensure the wheelchair you consider is covered.

I already own a wheelchair but need an upgrade. Will Medicare cover the cost? 

Medicare might cover the cost if your current wheelchair no longer meets your medical needs, and your doctor certifies the necessity for an upgrade. However, the usual criteria for medical necessity and supplier approval still apply.

Does Medicare cover wheelchair accessories, like cushions or cup holders? 

Medicare covers certain essential accessories deemed medically necessary, such as pressure-relieving cushions. However, non-essential accessories like cup holders might not be covered.

How often can I get a new wheelchair covered by Medicare? 

Medicare doesn’t have a strict timeline, but they’ll cover a new wheelchair if your medical condition changes and requires a different type of wheelchair or if the wheelchair you have is no longer serviceable and can’t be repaired.

What if I need a specialized or custom wheelchair due to unique medical conditions? 

If your doctor certifies that a specialized or custom wheelchair is medically necessary for your condition, Medicare may cover it. However, the process might be more detailed and require additional documentation.

Can I rent a wheelchair instead of buying one, and will Medicare cover the rental costs? 

Yes, Medicare allows beneficiaries to rent wheelchairs in certain situations. If you only need a wheelchair temporarily, renting might be a viable option. Medicare typically covers the rental cost, but the usual 20% co-payment and Part B deductible might apply.

Jose Alpuerto

Written by

Jose Alpuerto

With a heart that beats for the young and young-at-heart alike, Jose dives headfirst into the world of tech wizardry and safety gadgets, all with the mission of turning aging at home into an adventure. Armed with a keyboard and an unquenchable enthusiasm, he spins tales of gadgets that bring laughter and ease to the lives of the elderly, proving that growing older doesn’t mean you can’t keep the spirit of play alive.