Medicare Coverage for Home Medical Equipment
BiLevel Devices/Respiratory Assist Devices
For a respiratory assist device to be covered, the treating physician must fully document in your medical record symptoms characteristic of sleep-associated hypoventilation, such as daytime hypersomnolence, excessive fatigue, morning headaches, cognitive dysfunction,
A respiratory assist device is covered for those patients with clinical disorder groups characterized as (I) restrictive thoracic disorders (i.e., neuromuscular diseases or severe thoracic cage abnormalities), (II) severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), (III) central sleep apnea (CSA) or Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA), or (IV) hypoventilation syndrome.
If you are diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea, see the coverage criteria for Positive Airway Pressure Devices below.
Various tests may need to be performed to establish one of the above diagnosis groups.
Three months after starting your therapy, your physician will be required to respond in writing to questions regarding your continued use, along with how well the machine is treating your
Breast Prostheses are covered after a radical mastectomy. Medicare will cover:
There is no coverage for replacement prostheses due to wear and tear before the specified time frames. However, Medicare will cover replacement of these items due to:
Irreparable damage, or
Change in medical condition (e.g. significant weight gain/loss)
Patients are allowed only one prosthesis per affected side, others will be denied as not medically necessary even if attempting asymmetry (an ABN should be provided in this circumstance).
Mastectomy sleeves which are used to control swelling are not covered in the home setting because they do not meet Medicare’s definition of a prosthesis; however, it is possible that they may be covered under the hospital per diem if you request one during your hospital stay.
Cervical traction devices are covered only if both of the criteria below are met:
1. The patient has a musculoskeletal or neurologic impairment requiring traction equipment.
2. The appropriate use of a home cervical traction device has been demonstrated to the patient and the patient tolerated the selected device.
A commode is only covered when the patient is physically incapable of utilizing regular toilet facilities.
1. The patient is confined to a single room, or
Heavy-duty commodes are covered for patients weighing over 300 pounds.
2. The patient is confined to one level of the home environment and there is no toilet on that level, or
3. The patient is confined to the home and there are no toilet facilities in the home.
Gradient compression stockings worn below the knee are covered only when used for the treatment of open venous stasis ulcers. They are not covered for the prevention of ulcers, prevention of the reoccurrence of ulcers, or treatment of lymphedema without ulcers.
Positive Airway Pressure Devices
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Devices are covered only for patients with obstructive sleep apnea
You must have an overnight sleep study performed in a sleep laboratory to establish a qualifying diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In March of 2008, home sleep testing was approved as an acceptable means of diagnosing this condition when your physician deems this testing is appropriate.
Medicare will also pay for replacement masks, tubing and other necessary supplies.
After the first three months of use, you will be required to verify if you are benefiting from using the device and how many hours a day you are using the machine. Per Medicare and Private Insurance guidelines, a face-to-face visit with your physician that documents an improvement of your symptoms is required no sooner than 31 days and no later than 91 days from the set-up date. A data report from your sleep equipment which documents that the PAP has been used for at least 4 hours per night on 70% of nights during a 30-day consecutive period is required.
If the CPAP device is not working, or if you cannot tolerate the CPAP machine, your doctor may also try to use a different device called a Bi-Level or a Respiratory Assist Device (RAD), and Medicare can consider this for coverage as well. To switch to a RAD, the physician must document the following 4 items in the patient’s chart:
1. The patient tried but was unsuccessful with attempts to use the CPAP device; and,
2. Multiple interface (mask) options have been tried and the current interface (mask) is most comfortable to the patient; and,
3. The work of exhalation with the current pressure setting of the CPAP prevents the patent from tolerating the therapy; and,
4. Lower pressure settings of the CPAP fail to adequately control the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea or reduce the AHI/RDI (apneas and hypopneas) to acceptable levels.
Talk with your provider if you are having problems adjusting to the therapy. There are a lot of variations that can make the therapy more comfortable for you.
For diabetics, Medicare covers the glucose monitor, lancets, spring-powered lancing devices, test strips, control solution and replacement batteries for the meter.
Medicare does not cover insulin injections or diabetic pills unless covered through a Medicare Part D benefit plan.
Diabetics can obtain up to a three month supply at a time.
Medicare will approve up to one test per day for non-insulin dependent diabetics and three tests per day for insulin-dependent diabetics without additional verification.
Patients who test above these guidelines are required to be seen and evaluated by their physician within six months of ordering these supplies.
In addition, patients must send their provider evidence of compliant testing (e.g. a testing log) every six months to continue getting refills at the higher levels.
If at any time your testing frequency changes, your physician will need to give your provider a new prescription.
Medicare covers one complete pair of glasses after the last cataract surgery. These can include:
- Two lenses
- Tint, anti-reflective coating, and/or UV (when the doctor specifically orders these services for a medical need)
A hospital bed is covered if one or more of the following criteria (1-4) are met:
1. The patient has a medical condition which requires positioning of the body in ways not feasible with an ordinary bed. Elevation of the head/upper body less than 30 degrees does not usually require the use of a hospital bed, or
2. The patient requires positioning of the body in ways not feasible with an ordinary bed in order to alleviate pain, or
3. The patient requires the head of the bed to be elevated more than 30 degrees most of the time due to congestive heart failure, chronic pulmonary disease, or problems with aspiration. Pillows or wedges must have been considered and ruled out, or
4. The patient requires traction equipment which can only be attached to a hospital bed.
Specialty beds that allow the height of the bed to vary are covered for patients that require this feature to permit transfers to a chair, wheelchair or standing position.
A semi-electric bed is covered for a patient that requires frequent changes in body position and/or has an immediate need for a change in body position.
Heavy-duty/extra-wide beds can be covered for patients that weigh over 350 pounds.
The total electric bed is not covered because it is considered a convenience feature. If you prefer to have the total electric feature, your provider usually can apply the cost of the semi-electric bed toward the monthly rental price of the total electric model by using an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN). You would be responsible to pay the difference in the retail charges between the two items every
Lymphedema Pumps are covered for treatment of true lymphedema as a result of a:
- Primary Lymphedema resulting from a congenital abnormality of lymphatic drainage or Milroy’s disease, or
- Secondary lymphedema resulting from the destruction of or damage to formerly functioning lymphatic channels such as:
- radical surgical procedures with removal of regional groups of lymph nodes (for example, after radical mastectomy),
- post-radiation fibrosis,
- spread of malignant tumors to regional lymph nodes with lymphatic obstruction,
- or other causes
Before you can be prescribed a pump, your physician must monitor you during a four-week trial period where other treatment options are tried such as medication, limb elevation and compression garments. If, at the end of the trial, there is little or no improvement, a lymphedema pump can be considered.
The doctor must then document an initial treatment with a pump and establish that the treatment can be tolerated.
Lymphedema pumps also are covered for the treatment of chronic venus insufficiency (CVI).
Before you can be prescribed a pump for this condition, your physician must monitor you during a six month trial period where other treatment options are tried such as medication, limb elevation and compression garments. If at the end of the trial the stasis ulcers are still present, a lymphedema pump can be considered.
The doctor must then document an initial treatment with a pump and establish that the treatment can be tolerated, that there is a caregiver available to assist with the treatment in the home, and then the doctor must prescribe the pressures, frequency, and duration of prescribed
(other than Medicare Part D coverage)
- As of February 2001, all providers of Medicare-covered drugs are required to accept assignment on these items.
- Traditional Medicare Part B insurance will cover some nebulizer drugs, some infused drugs using a pump, specific immunosuppressive drugs, select oral anti-cancer medications and most parenteral nutrition.
- The Medicare Part D plans may provide additional coverage of other oral medications, inhalers and similar drugs.
Mobility Products: Canes, Walkers, Wheelchairs, and Scooters
Essentially the new Mobility Assistive Equipment regulations will ensure that Medicare funds are used to pay for:
- Mobility needs for daily activities within the home.
- Least costly alternative/lowest level of equipment to accomplish these tasks.
- Most medically appropriate equipment (to meet the needs, not the wants)
Medicare requires that your physician and provider evaluate your needs and expected use of the mobility product you will qualify for.
They must determine which is the least level of equipment needed to help you be mobile within your home to accomplish daily activities by asking the following questions:
- Will a cane or crutches allow you to perform these activities in the home?
- If not, will a walker allow you to accomplish these activities in the home?
- If not, is there any type of manual wheelchair that will allow you to accomplish these activities in the home?
- If not, will a scooter allow you to accomplish these activities in the home?
- If not, will a power chair allow you to accomplish these activities in the home?
Keep in mind if you have another higher level product in mind that will allow you to do more beyond the confines of the home setting, you can discuss with your provider the option to upgrade to a higher level or more comfortable product by paying an additional out of pocket fee using the Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN) to select the product you like best.
A face-to-face examination with your physician is required prior to the initial setup of a power chair or scooter.
Your home must be evaluated to ensure it will accommodate the use of any mobility product.
You may also be asked to see a physical therapist or occupational therapist to determine the best fit and equipment selection.
- Nebulizer machines, medications and related accessories are usually covered for patients with obstructive pulmonary disease, but can also be covered to deliver specific medications to patients with HIV, CF, bronchiectasis, pneumocystosis, complications of organ transplants, or for persistent thick or tenacious pulmonary secretions.
- Patients can obtain up to a three month’s supply of nebulizer medications and accessories at a time.
Non-covered items (partial listing):
- Adult diapers
- Bathroom safety equipment
- Hearing aides
- Van lifts or ramps
- Exercise equipment
- Humidifiers/Air Purifiers
- Raised toilet seats
- Massage devices
- Stair lifts
- Emergency communicators
- Low Vision Aides
- Grab bars
- Elastic Garments
Orthopedic shoes are covered when it is necessary to attach the shoe(s) to a leg brace.
- However, Medicare will only pay for the shoe(s) attached to the leg braces.
- Medicare will not pay for matching shoes or for shoes that are needed for purposes other than for diabetes or leg braces.
Ostomy supplies are covered for people with a:
Patients can obtain up to a three month’s supply of wafers, pouches, paste and other necessary items at a time.
Covered for patients with significant hypoxemia in the chronic stable state when:
patient has a chronic lung condition or disease or hypoxemia that might be expected to improve with oxygen therapy, and
patient’s blood gas levels or oxygen saturation levels indicate the need for oxygen therapy, and
alternative treatments have been tried or deemed clinically ineffective.
Categories/Groups are based on the test results to measure your oxygen:
For these results you must return to your physician 12 months after the initial visit to continue therapy for lifetime or until the need is expected to end. Typically, you will not have to be retested when you return to your physician for the follow-up visit.
Group II Criteria: 56-59 mmHg, or 89% saturation For these results, you must be retested within 3 months of the first test to continue therapy for lifetime or until the need is expected to end.
Group III Criteria: mmHg=60 or saturation =90% not medically necessary.
Oxygen will be paid as a rental for the first 36 months. After that time, if you still need the equipment, you may keep it for up to two additional years, although your provider still owns the equipment. There are no rental payments during the two-year service period. Medicare will no longer make rental payments on the equipment during the two-year service period. During the service period, Medicare will pay for refilling your oxygen cylinders and for a semi-annual maintenance fee if your equipment is not otherwise covered by a manufacturer warranty.
After 60 months of service through Medicare you may choose to receive new equipment.
Parenteral and Enteral Therapy
Parenteral therapy requires all or part of the gastrointestinal tract be missing. Nutritional formulas are delivered through a vein.
Enteral therapy is covered for patients who cannot swallow or take food orally. Nutrition must be delivered through a tube directly into the gastrointestinal tract.
Medicare will not pay for nutritional formulas that are taken orally.
A lift is covered if transfer between bed and a chair, wheelchair, or commode requires the assistance of more than one person and, without the use of a lift, the patient would be bed confined.
An electric lift mechanism is not covered; because it is considered a convenience feature. If you prefer to have the electric mechanism, your provider can usually apply the cost of the manual lift toward the purchase price of the electric model by using an Advance Beneficiary Notice (ABN). You would be responsible to pay the difference in the retail charges between the two items.
Patient lifts are a capped rental item.
Seat Lift Mechanisms
In order for Medicare to pay for a seat lift mechanism, patients must be suffering from severe arthritis of the hip or knee, or have a severe neuromuscular disease. In addition they must be completely incapable of standing up from any chair, but once standing they can walk either independently or with the aid of a walker or cane. The physician must believe that the mechanism will improve, slow down or stop the deterioration of the patient’s condition.
Transferring directly into a wheelchair will prevent Medicare from paying for the device.
Medicare will only pay for the lift mechanism portion. The chair portion of the package is not covered, and you will be responsible for paying the full amount for the furniture component of the chair.
Your provider is required to have a detailed written order or CMN from your physician before they can provide you with this equipment; otherwise the equipment will be denied.
Group 1 products are designed to be placed on top of a standard hospital or home mattress. They can utilize gel, foam, water or air, and are covered for patients that
Completely immobile OR
Have limited mobility with any stage ulcer on the trunk or pelvis (and one of the following):
impaired nutritional status
fecal or urinary incontinence
altered sensory perception
compromised circulatory status
Group 2 products take many forms, but are typically powered pressure reducing mattresses or overlays. They are covered for patients with one of three conditions:
Multiple stage II ulcers on the pelvis or trunk while on a comprehensive treatment program for at least a month using a Group 1 product, and at the close of that month, the ulcers worsened or remained the same. (Monthly follow-up is required by a clinician to ensure that the treatment program is modified and followed. This product is only covered while ulcers are still present.) OR
Large or multiple Stage III or IV ulcers on the trunk or pelvis (Monthly follow-up is required by a clinician to ensure that the treatment program is modified and followed. This product is only covered while ulcers are still present.) OR
A recent myocutaneous flap or skin graft for an ulcer on the trunk or pelvis within the last 60 days who were immediately placed on Group 2 or 3 support surface prior to discharge from the hospital and the patient has been discharged within last 30 days.
A physician or healthcare professional must make monthly assessments as to whether continued use of the equipment is required.
Your provider is required to have a detailed written order from your physician before they can provide you with this equipment; otherwise the equipment will be denied.
- TENS units are covered for the treatment of chronic intractable pain that has been present for at least three months or more, and in some cases for acute post-operative pain.
- Not all types of pains can be treated with a TENS unit. TENS units have proven ineffective in treating headaches, visceral abdominal pains, pelvic pains, and TMJ pains, and therefore Medicare will not pay for the device when used to treat these conditions.
- For chronic pain sufferers, Medicare will pay for a one or two month trial rental to determine if this device will alleviate the chronic pain. You must return to your physician exactly 30-60 days after initial evaluation to authorize the purchase of this equipment.
- For acute post-operative pain sufferers, Medicare will consider rental payment for a maximum of 30 days. Any duration longer than that will require individual consideration.
- Your provider is required to have a detailed written order or CMN from your physician before they can provide you with this equipment; otherwise the equipment will be denied.
Special therapeutic shoes, inserts and modifications can be covered for diabetic patients with the following foot conditions:
- Therapeutic Shoes
- previous amputation of foot or partial foot
- history of foot ulceration
- history of pre-ulcerative calluses
- peripheral neuropathy with callus formation
- foot deformity
- poor circulation in either foot
Your provider is required to have a statement from the physician treating your diabetes (this cannot be your podiatrist, a nurse practitioner or physician assistant). This statement must certify that you have one of the above conditions. They must also have a written order (from your physician, clinician or podiatrist) before they can provide you with these services, otherwise they will be denied.
Urinary catheters and external urinary collection devices are covered to drain or collect urine for a patient who has permanent urinary incontinence or permanent urinary retention. Permanent urinary retention is defined as retention that is not expected to be medically or surgically corrected in that patient within 3 months.
A maximum of six catheters may be used per day (200/month) for qualified, intermittent catheterizations. The actual quantity that you receive will be based on your physician’s judgment and prescription. Either you or a caregiver must be able to perform the catheterization.
Sterile intermittent catheterization kits are only covered when one of the following five situations
- The patient resides in a nursing facility, or
- The patient has radiologically documented vesico-ureteral reflux while on a program of intermittent catheterization, or
- The patient is a spinal cord injured female with neurogenic bladder who is pregnant (for duration of pregnancy only), or
- The patient has had distinct, recurrent urinary tract infections (formally diagnosed via urine cultures), while on a program of sterile intermittent catheterization and sterile lubricant, twice within the 12-months prior to the initiation of sterile intermittent catheter
- The patient is immunosuppressed, for example (not all-inclusive):
1. On a regimen of immunosuppressive drugs post-transplant,
2. On cancer chemotherapy,
3. Has AIDS,
4. Has a drug-induced state such as chronic oral corticosteroid use
- For indwelling catheters, one insertion tray and one maintenance service is covered per month, or
- A maximum of 35 external male catheters will be covered per month, unless a higher number is deemed medically necessary.
- A maximum of 1 metal cup and 1 pouch will be covered for external female catheters per week.
- External catheters are not covered for patients already using indwelling catheters.
- When at home, you may receive up to a 3-month supply at one time.