Home Safety Items Not Covered by Medicare - dummies

Home Safety Items Not Covered by Medicare

Copyright © 2014 AARP. All rights reserved.

Medicare spends billions of dollars a year on treating the results of falls, and older Americans are five times more likely to end up in the hospital for falls than for any other injuries. So you’d think that Medicare would try to save at least some of those billions by covering safety items that help prevent people from falling. But no, it doesn’t.

To be sure, Medicare covers a few items it deems medically reasonable if prescribed by a doctor — for example, seat lifts that help incapacitated people sit down or get up from a chair or trapeze bars that help people sit up or alter positions when confined to bed.

But Medicare doesn’t pay for equipment it considers items of convenience rather than of medical necessity. A long list of noncovered items includes stair lifts or elevators, bathtub lifts or seats, grab bars, room heaters, air conditioners, humidifiers, posture chairs, massage devices, physical fitness equipment, and medical emergency alert systems.

But you may be able to get help in other ways:

  • If you’re a veteran with disabilities, be aware that the Department of Veterans Affairs has little-known programs that provide cash grants to help eligible vets make safety improvements in their homes. Call the VA at 877-827-3704, or go to the VA website.

  • If your income is limited, contact the nonprofit organization Rebuilding Together, which provides volunteers to make housing repairs and install safety equipment free of charge. Call 800-473-4229 for local information.

  • If you file itemized tax returns, you may be able to deduct the costs of home improvements for medical reasons.