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Does Medicare cover home safety equipment?


     

        

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The answer depends on what your Medicare plan considers home safety equipment and durable medical equipment.

Original Medicare typically won’t pay for home safety equipment or modifications. Medicare Part B covers only durable medical equipment that’s considered medically necessary and prescribed by a doctor.

Some Medicare Advantage plans cover certain home safety equipment and, for people with chronic conditions, structural modifications. But each of the plans vary.

What home safety equipment won’t Medicare pay for?

Original Medicare doesn’t pay for equipment that it considers to be for comfort or convenience and and isn't primarily for medical reasons, such as bathtub seats, grab bars, nonslip flooring, posture chairs and raised toilet seats.  

Medicare also doesn’t pay for air conditioners, dehumidifiers, electric air cleaners, humidifiers and room heaters. Nor does it cover home modifications such as adding ramps for wheelchair access.  

What durable medical equipment does Part B cover?  

Medicare Part B covers some related items as durable medical equipment but only under certain circumstances. Part B may cover specific types of hospital beds, patient lifts and trapeze bars to help you move around if you’re confined to bed.

Your doctor or other provider must consider the equipment medically necessary and prescribe it for use in your home. 

When Part B covers this equipment, it’s subject to the Part B deductible and coinsurance, which means you’ll probably pay 20 percent of the cost. A Medicare supplement policy, known as Medigap, or retiree coverage can help with coinsurance costs.  

Research any equipment you’re considering at medicare.gov to check its eligibility as durable medical equipment. The supplier has to be enrolled in Medicare to qualify.  

What safety equipment will Medicare Advantage cover?

Medicare Advantage plans must cover the same medically necessary items and services as original Medicare, including durable medical equipment. Some Medicare Advantage plans provide additional coverage.

For example, 10 percent of regular Advantage plans and 14 percent of special needs plans cover bathroom safety devices, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.  

Even fewer of these plans cover structural home modifications for people with chronic conditions. In 2022, 0.6 percent of regular Medicare Advantage plans and 1.2 percent of special needs plans covered these modifications.  

Some plans may include an allowance of up to $500 a year to spend on assistive and safety devices such as handrails, shower stools and temporary wheelchair ramps. The plans often distribute allowances through flex cards, which are prepaid debit cards.  

What other assistance is available?  

Assistance goes beyond Medicare coverage. It’s worth investigating if you’re eligible for other programs that can help with these costs.

Local programs. Some agencies and nonprofits in your area offer programs to help pay for medically related home improvements and equipment. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging and other resources through the Eldercare Locator

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Medicaid. In some states, Medicaid pays for certain home improvements to enable a Medicaid recipient to continue to live at home. This coverage varies by state and is often paid through Medicaid waiver programs. Contact your state Medicaid agency for more information.

Veterans benefits. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has several programs to help pay for home adaptations for veterans and service members with some disabilities that are connected to their time in the armed forces.  

Check out the VA’s Disability Housing Grants for Veterans and its Home Improvements and Structural Alterations resource pages for information. The home improvements program also offers benefits for some disabilities that are not service related.  

You can find additional information about VA health benefits with AARP’s Veterans Health Benefits guide.

Keep in mind

You may be able to get a tax break for some home improvements to accommodate a disability and help pay for eligible medical equipment that Medicare or other insurance doesn’t cover.

These costs can be tax deductible as a medical expense if you itemize deductions on your federal income tax return, similar to tax-deductible Medicare premiums. You can deduct medical expenses only if they add up to more than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Tax-deductible eligible expenses may include installing:

  • Entrance or exit ramps.
  • Handrails or grab bars anywhere within the home.
  • Lower or modified kitchen cabinets and equipment.
  • Railings and support bars in bathrooms.
  • Widened doorways at entrances or exits.

To be eligible for the deduction, the equipment or improvements must be medically necessary for you, your spouse or your dependent. If the improvement increases the value of the home, a portion of the expense will not be tax deductible.

For a list of tax-deductible medical expenses, see IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses. Some states also offer special tax breaks for home adaptations to improve accessibility.  

Published April 10, 2023

 

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