Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment and Other Devices
- What is durable medical equipment?
- Does Medicare cover durable medical equipment?
- When does Original Medicare cover durable medical equipment?
- What if I need durable medical equipment and I am in a Medicare Advantage Plan?
- If I have Original Medicare, how do I get the durable medical equipment I need?
- Power wheelchairs and scooters
- What is covered, and how much does it cost?
- What is “assignment” in Original Medicare, and why is it important?
- How will I know if I can buy durable medical equipment or whether Medicare will only pay for me to rent it?
- New Rules for How Medicare Pays Suppliers for Oxygen Equipment
If you need durable medical equipment or other types of medical equipment, Medicare can help.
This page explains Medicare coverage for durable medical equipment, prosthetic devices, orthotic items, prostheses and therapeutic shoes in Original Medicare (sometimes called fee-for-service) and what you might need to pay. Durable medical equipment includes things like the following:
- Home oxygen equipment
- Hospital beds
The page also explains coverage for prosthetic equipment (like cardiac pacemakers, enteral nutrition pumps, and prosthetic lenses), orthotic items (like leg, neck, and back braces) and prostheses (like artificial legs, arms, and eyes). It’s important for you to know what Medicare covers and what you may need to pay. Talk to your doctor if you think you need some type of durable medical equipment.
What is durable medical equipment?
Durable medical equipment is reusable medical equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, or hospital beds.
Does Medicare cover durable medical equipment?
Anyone who has Medicare Part B can get durable medical equipment as long as the equipment is medically necessary.
When does Original Medicare cover durable medical equipment?
If you have Part B, Original Medicare covers durable medical equipment when your doctor or treating practitioner (such as a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or clinical nurse specialist)prescribes it for you to use in your home. A hospital or nursing home that is providing you with Medicare-covered care can’t qualify as your “home” in this situation. However, a long-term care facility can qualify as your home.
Note: If you are in a skilled nursing facility and the facility provides you with durable medical equipment, the facility is responsible for this equipment.
What if I need durable medical equipment and I am in a Medicare Advantage Plan?
Medicare Advantage Plans (like an HMO or PPO) must cover the same items and services as Original Medicare. Your costs will depend on which plan you choose, and may be lower than Original Medicare. If you are in a Medicare Advantage Plan and you need durable medical equipment, call your plan to find out if the equipment is covered and how much you will have to pay.
If you are getting home care or using medical equipment and you choose to join a new Medicare Advantage Plan, you should call the new plan as soon as possible and ask for Utilization Management. They can tell if your equipment is covered and how much it will cost. If you return to Original Medicare, you should tell your supplier to bill Medicare directly after the date your coverage in the Medicare Advantage Plan ends.
Note: If your plan leaves the Medicare Program and you are using medical equipment such as oxygen or a wheelchair, call the telephone number on your Medicare Advantage Plan card. Ask for Utilization Management. They will tell you how you can get care under Original Medicare or under a new Medicare Advantage Plan.
If I have Original Medicare, how do I get the durable medical equipment I need?
If you need durable medical equipment in your home, your doctor or treating practitioner (such as a nurse practitioner, physician assistant,or clinical nurse specialist) must prescribe the type of equipment you need. For some equipment, Medicare also requires your doctor or one of the doctor’s office staff to fill out a special form and send it to Medicare to get approval for the equipment. This is called a Certificate of Medical Necessity. Your supplier will work with your doctor to see that all required information is submitted to Medicare. If your prescription and/or condition changes, your doctor must complete and submit a new, updated certificate.
Medicare only covers durable medical equipment if you get it from a supplier enrolled in the Medicare Program. This means that the supplier has been approved by Medicare and has a Medicare supplier number.
A supplier enrolled in the Medicare Program must meet strict standards to qualify for a Medicare supplier number. If your supplier doesn’t have a supplier number, Medicare won’t pay your claim, even if your supplier is a large chain or department store that sells more than just durable medical equipment.
Power wheelchairs and scooters
For Medicare to cover a power wheelchair or scooter, your doctor must state that you need it because of your medical condition. Medicare won’t cover a power wheelchair or scooter that is only needed and used outside of the home. Most suppliers who work with Medicare are honest. There are a few who aren’t honest. Medicare is working with other government agencies to protect you and the Medicare Program from dishonest suppliers of power wheelchairs and scooters.
What is covered, and how much does it cost?
The list below shows just a few of the many items Medicare covers. For a complete list, please call (800) 633-4227 (Medicare).
- Blood glucose monitors
- Canes, crutches and walkers
- Home oxygen equipment and supplies
- Hospital beds
- Nebulizer and some medicines used in them, suction pumps, ventilators or respiratory assist devices
- Prosthetic lenses — You are covered for one pair of eyeglasses or contact lenses after each cataract surgery with an intraocular lens.
The AlaskaCare Retiree Health Plan is secondary to Medicare so Medicare typically covers 80% of the approved amount and then it is sent to AlaskaCare for secondary coverage. It’s important for you to know what Medicare covers and what you may need to pay.
What is “assignment” in Original Medicare and why is it important?
Assignment is an agreement between you (the person with Medicare),Medicare, and doctors or other health care providers, and suppliers of health care equipment and supplies (like durable medical equipment and prosthetic or orthotic devices). Doctors, providers, and suppliers who agree to accept assignment accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment. After you have paid the Part B deductible ($135 in 2009), you pay the doctor or supplier the coinsurance(usually 20% of the approved amount). Medicare pays the other 80%.
Suppliers who agree to accept assignment on all claims for durable medical equipment and other devices are called “participating suppliers.” If a durable medical equipment supplier doesn’t accept assignment,there is no limit tow hat they can charge you. In addition, you may have to pay the entire bill(Medicare’s share as well as your coinsurance and any deductible) at the time you get the durable medical equipment. The supplier will send the bill to Medicare for you, but you will have to wait for Medicare to reimburse you later for its share of the charge.
Important Note:Before you get durable medical equipment, ask if the supplier is enrolled in Medicare. If the supplier is not enrolled in Medicare,Medicare won’t pay your claim at all. Then, ask if the supplier is a participating supplier in the Medicare Program. A participating supplier must accept assignment. A supplier that is enrolled in Medicare, but isn’t“participating,” has the option whether to accept assignment. You will have to ask if the supplier will accept assignment for your claim.
How will I know if I can buy durable medical equipment or whether Medicare will only pay for me to rent it?
If your supplier is a Medicare-enrolled supplier, they will know whether Medicare allows you to buy a particular kind of durable medical equipment,or just pays for you to rent it. Medicare pays for most durable medical equipment on a rental basis. Medicare only purchases inexpensive or routinely purchased items, such as canes; power wheelchairs; and, in rare cases, items that must be made specifically for you.
If you own Medicare-covered durable medical equipment and other devices, Medicare may also cover repairs and replacement parts. Medicare will pay 80% of the Medicare-approved amount for purchase of the item. Medicare will also pay 80% of the Medicare-approved amount (up to the cost of replacing the item)for repairs. You pay the other 20%. Your costs may be higher if the supplier doesn’t accept assignment.
Note:The equipment you buy may be replaced if it’s lost, stolen, damaged beyond repair, or used for more than the reasonable useful lifetime of the equipment.
If you rent durable medical equipment and other devices,Medicare makes monthly payments for use of the equipment. The rules for how long monthly payments continue vary based on the type of equipment. Total rental payments for inexpensive or routinely purchased items are limited to the fee Medicare sets to purchase the item. If you will need these items for more than a few months, you may decide to purchase these items rather than rent them. Monthly payments for frequently serviced items, such as ventilators, are made as long as the equipment is medically necessary. The payment rules for other types of rented equipment,called “capped rental items,” are on page 10. Medicare will pay80% of the Medicare-approved amount each month for use oft he se items. You pay the other 20% after you pay the Medicare Part B deductible ($135 in 2009).
The supplier will pick up the equipment when you no longer need it. Any costs for repairs or replacement parts for the rented equipment are the supplier’s responsibility. The supplier will also pick up the rented equipment if it needs repairs. You don’t have to bring the rented equipment back to the supplier.
New Rules for How Medicare Pays Suppliers for Oxygen Equipment
Changes in law require Medicare to change the way it pays suppliers for oxygen equipment and supplies. You will still be able to get your oxygen equipment. However, you should know about the new rules that start January 1, 2009.Previously, the law stated that you would own the oxygen equipment after you rented it for 36 months. Under the new law, the rental payments will end after 36months, but the supplier continues to own the equipment. The new law then requires your supplier to provide the oxygen equipment and related supplies for 2additional years (5 years total), as long as oxygen is still medically necessary.
How does Medicare pay for oxygen equipment and related supplies and what do I pay?
The monthly rental payments to the supplier cover not only your oxygen equipment, but also any supplies and accessories such as tubing or a mouthpiece,oxygen contents, maintenance, servicing and repairs. Medicare pays 80% of the rental amount, and the person with Medicare is responsible for any unpaid Part B Deductible, and the remaining 20% of the rental amount.
What happens with my oxygen equipment and related services after the 36 months of rental payments?
Your supplier has been paid over 36 months for furnishing your oxygen and oxygen equipment for up to 5 years, and your supplier is required to continue to maintain the oxygen equipment (in good working order) and furnish the equipment and any necessary supplies and accessories, as long as you need it until the 5 year period ends. The supplier can’t charge you for performing these services. If you use oxygen tanks or cylinders that need delivery of gaseous or liquid oxygen contents, Medicare will continue to pay each month for the delivery of contents after the 36-month rental period. The supplier that delivers this equipment to you in the last month of the 36-month rental period must provide these items, as long as you medically need it, up to 5 years.
Will Medicare pay for any maintenance and servicing after the 36-month period ends?
If you use an oxygen concentrator or transfilling equipment (a machine that fills your portable tanks in your home), for 2009 only, Medicare will pay for routine maintenance and servicing visits every 6 months starting 6 months after the end oft he 36-month rental period.
What happens to my oxygen equipment after 5 years?
At the end of the 5-year period, your supplier’s obligation to continue furnishing your oxygen and oxygen equipment ends, and you may elect to obtain replacement equipment from any supplier. A new 36-month payment period and 5-year supplier obligation period start once the old 5-year period ends and the new oxygen and oxygen equipment you require is furnished.
What if I’m away from home for an extended period of time or I move to another area during the 36-month period?
If you travel away from home for an extended period of time (several weeks or months) or permanently move to another area during the 36-month rental period, ask your current supplier if they can help you find a supplier in the new area. If your supplier can’t help you locate an oxygen supplier in the area where you are visiting or moving to, call (800) 633-4227. TTY users should call (877) 486-2048.
What if I’m away from home for an extended period of time or I move to another area after the 36-month period?
If you travel or move after the 36-month rental period ends, your supplier has been paid for furnishing your equipment for 5 years and is generally responsible for ensuring that you are provided with oxygen and oxygen equipment in the new area. Your supplier may choose to make arrangements for a different supplier in your new area to provide the oxygen and oxygen equipment. However, a supplier may not charge you for the equipment,supplies, accessories or other services identified above that are provided after the 36-month rental payment period. The only exceptions to this rule are noted above.
What if my supplier refuses to continue providing my oxygen equipment and related services as required by law?
If your supplier is not following Medicare laws and rules, call (800) 633-4227. TTY users should call (877) 486-2048. A customer service representative will refer your case to the appropriate area.
- An agreement between a person with Medicare, a doctor or supplier, and Medicare. Doctors or suppliers who accept assignment from Medicare agree to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment.
- Capped rental item
- Durable medical equipment (like oxygen,nebulizers, and manual wheelchairs) that costs more than $150,and is rented to people with Medicare more than 25% of the time.
- Certificate of Medical Necessity
- A form required by Medicare that your physician must complete to get Medicare coverage for certain medical equipment.
- An amount you may be required to pay for services after you pay any plan deductibles. In Original Medicare, this is a percentage (like 20%) of the Medicare-approved amount. You have to pay this amount after you pay the Part A and/or Part B deductible.
- The amount you must pay for health care or prescriptions, before Original Medicare or other insurance begins to pay. For example, in Original Medicare, you pay a new deductible for each benefit period for Part A, and each year for Part B. These amounts can change every year.
- Durable Medical Equipment
- Medical equipment that is ordered by a doctor (or, if Medicare allows, a nurse practitioner, physician assistant, or clinical nurse specialist) for use in the home. A hospital or nursing home that mostly provides skilled care can’t qualify as a“home” in this situation. These medical items must be reusable,such as walkers, wheelchairs, or hospital beds.
- Medically Necessary
- Services or supplies that are needed for the diagnosis or treatment of your medical condition.
- Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C)
- A type of Medicare plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits. Also called Part C, Medicare Advantage Plans are HMOs, PPOs, Private Fee-for-Service Plans, or Medicare Medical Savings Account Plans. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage Plan, Medicare services are covered through the plan, and are not paid for under Original Medicare.
- Medicare-Approved Amount
- In Original Medicare, this is the amount a doctor or supplier that accepts assignment can be paid. It includes what Medicare pays and any deductible, coinsurance,or copayment that you pay. It may be less than the amount a doctor or supplier charges for the item.
- Medigap Policy
- Medicare Supplement Insurance sold by private insurance companies to fill “gaps” in Original Medicare coverage. Except in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, all Medigap policies must be one of 12 standardized Medigap policies labeled Medigap Plan A through Plan L. Medigap policies only work with Original Medicare.
- Equipment that delivers medicine in a mist form to your lungs.
- Original Medicare
- Original Medicare has two parts: Part A (Hospital Insurance) and Part B (Medical Insurance). It is a fee-for-service health plan. After you pay a deductible, Medicare pays its share of the Medicare-approved amount, and you pay your share (coinsurance and deductibles).
- Devices that correct or support the function of body parts. Examples include leg, arm, and neck braces.
- Patient Lifts
- Equipment designed to move a patient from a bed or wheelchair.
- Devices that substitute for a missing body part. Examples include artificial legs, arms, and eyes.
- Prosthetic Devices
- Medical equipment (other than dental) that replaces all or part of an internal body organ.