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Q: Does My Health Insurance Cover Walkers, Wheelchairs, and Other Walking Aids?

Julia Pak July 26, 2018

Walking aids, such as walkers, canes, scooters, and wheelchairs, help you perform daily tasks if you have a mobility impairment. Doctors can prescribe walking equipment if you need extra assistance to move around.

Today, suppliers offer a wide variety of walking aids to alleviate your pain or adapt to your specific needs. Some devices can also serve as rehabilitative equipment that can strengthen your ability to move unassisted.

Depending on the walking device, prices can vary. Out-of-pocket expenses can range anywhere from $20 to $5,000 or more. Once you are prescribed equipment at your doctor’s office, urgent care, or hospital, your health plan can help cover costs so you can quickly get around.

Health Insurance and Walking Aids

A prescribed walking device may be covered depending on your health plan as a form of durable medical equipment, or DME. Examples of DME include:

  • Canes
  • Crutches
  • Wheelchairs
  • Walkers

In order for your health insurer to cover costs for a walking aid, you will need a doctor’s prescription. That prescription helps your insurer verify your walking aid is “medically necessary”, since health insurers can’t pay for cosmetic items. If your plan does provide DME coverage, you’ll only pay for a small portion for the equipment, also known as your copayment or coinsurance.

Before purchasing medical devices, check that your equipment supplier participates in your health insurance plan. If they are in-network, you can save on out-of-pocket costs. Depending on your illness or injury, you may be able to rent medical supplies. Otherwise, you’ll be asked to purchase your equipment on your own.

Because health insurance companies aren’t required to cover certain medical supplies under the Affordable Care Act, costs vary from case to case. You can look at your expected copay or coinsurance and decide whether or not to use your insurance. However if you choose to purchase a walking device without going through your insurer, it’s up to you to pay for expenses.

Depending on your health status and ability to walk, your doctor can recommend different walking aids. He or she will assess your needs and can provide you with resources to help you adjust to your new tools. By learning more about financial costs, you can quickly understand your share of costs as you plan for the future.

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