Does Medicare Cover Patient Lifts?

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007
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This article was updated on: 09/10/2018

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If you’re a Medicare beneficiary who’s confined to a bed because of a medical condition, such as a stroke, you may need a patient lift to help you get around your home and perform everyday tasks.

Patient lifts can be expensive if you’re paying out of pocket, but Medicare may cover these devices in some cases. Here’s an overview of patient lifts and how Medicare coverage works.

What is a patient lift?

A patient lift is a type of medical equipment that helps transfer patients who would otherwise be bed bound. Similar to a crane used in construction work, the device physically lifts and moves the patient’s entire body from one place to another using a sling that is attached to a bar. Patient lifts are either floor based with wheels or attached to the ceiling.

According to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), you might use a patient lift in the following situations:

  • Lifting a patient from the floor.
  • Transferring someone from a bed to a chair, or vice versa.
  • Moving a patient to a bathtub or toilet.
  • Repositioning a person lying in bed (for example, to prevent bed sores).

According to the FDA, you generally need at least two other caregivers to safely operate the device; here’s a helpful safety sheet by the FDA. Please note that a patient lift is different from a stair lift, which is a motorized seat that transfers you up and down the stairs; it’s also different from a lift chair, which is a recliner that shifts angles to either help you stand up or sit back down.

Are patient lifts covered by Medicare?

Medicare Part B may cover a patient lift for you to use in your home if medically necessary and prescribed by your doctor. To be eligible, your doctor must determine that the device is medically necessary because:

  • Your health condition would be improved by moving periodically. Or, a patient lift would help slow or stop your condition from getting worse.
  • You need help moving from a bed to a chair, wheelchair, or toilet, and without the patient lift, you would be confined to a bed.

If you get your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits through Medicare Advantage (Part C), keep in mind that Medicare Advantage plans must cover at least the same level of coverage as Original Medicare (except for hospice, which is still covered through Part A). So, if you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan and meet the Medicare criteria for a patient lift, your plan should cover it just as Original Medicare would cover it.

How much does it cost to rent or buy a patient lift?

After you’ve paid your Part B annual deductible, you’ll owe 20% of the Medicare-approved amount to either buy or rent the patient lift.

Make sure that the supplier you get your patient lift from is enrolled in the Medicare program and is a “participating” supplier. A Medicare-participating supplier agrees to always accept assignment, meaning the company won’t charge you higher than the amounts set by the Medicare program. You’ll still need to pay your share of the costs, such as deductibles or coinsurance. A non-participating supplier may charge more than the Medicare-approved amount for the patient lift, but can’t charge more than 15% above the Medicare-approved amount. You may be asked to pay the entire bill when you pick up the patient lift.

If you’re enrolled in Original Medicare and live in an area that’s part of Medicare’s Competitive Bidding Program, you may need to use certain contract suppliers or Medicare may not cover the cost. You can look up if your area is part of the program by visiting Medicare.gov or calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), 24 hours a day, seven days a week.. TTY users should call 1-877-486-2048.

Where can I get a patient lift?

As mentioned, your costs will be lower if you order your patient lift from a supplier enrolled in the Medicare program. You can find a list of Medicare-approved suppliers here.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, the plan may have its own rules when it comes to renting and buying durable medical equipment. You may need to get your patient lift from a list of approved suppliers. It’s a good idea to contact your Medicare Advantage plan for more details before you order your lift.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea how Medicare covers medical equipment, such as patient lifts. If you have other questions or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. To set up a time to talk one-on-one about your Medicare needs, click the link below. You can also request an email from me with personalized Medicare information; you’ll find that link below as well. To start browsing on your own, click the Compare Plans button on this page.

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