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Will Medicare Provide Coverage for Walkers?

Walkers offer a safe, cost-effective way to maintain mobility and independence. When used properly, walkers can reduce the risk of falls and injury. Not all walkers function the same way; different types of walkers are better suited to different needs. Deciphering your health insurance coverage can be challenging when facing a health concern. By familiarizing yourself with your policies, you can maximize your insurance benefits.

Key takeaways:

Seniors may wonder if Medicare covers walkers. It may, but you must meet specific requirements. Let’s explore the types of walkers and how Medicare financially assists its members.

Will Medicare pay for walkers?

Walkers are considered medical equipment. Insurance companies call these medical supplies “Durable Medical Equipment,” or DME. DME is covered under Original Medicare Part B. As a beneficiary, you are responsible for paying the Part B deductible of $226 in 2023. Once your deductible is met, Medicare will pay 80% of the approved cost of a walker. You are responsible for the other 20%.

Medicare will help pay for your walker if you meet the following criteria:

  • You must have a Medicare-approved doctor confirm your specific condition and provide documentation stating a walker is necessary to help you complete daily activities.
  • A physician must prescribe the appropriate type of walker.
  • You must obtain your walker from a medical equipment company that accepts Medicare.
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Medicare approved walkers

There are several kinds of walkers on the market. Each has its pros and cons. Your doctor will recommend a model best suited for your diagnosis and situation. When recommending a safe walker, your healthcare provider considers diagnosis, muscle strength, weight-bearing status, coordination, and cognitive functioning. They will also determine if your needs will be short or long-term. You must require a walker in your home for mobility purposes.

Medicare will not approve a walker for outside activities or occasional use. Some people may benefit from having two types of walkers. For example, with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis, people have good and bad days. A rollator or upright walker may provide enough support on good days, while a standard walker can offer more stability and safety on bad days.

Rollator walkers

Rollator walkers are commonly called four-wheeled or wheeled walkers. Most rollators have four wheels, but some have three. These walkers have handlebar breaking systems, similar to a bicycle. Wheels come in small and larger sizes. Larger wheels enable users to navigate terrain changes like walking from carpet to tile or hardwood floors or over sidewalk cracks. Rollator walkers come with a padded seat that also hides a handy basket for transporting objects.

Upright Mobility Walker

This type of walker is pushed in front of you. They are best suited for people with minimal mobility difficulties who require some help with balance and stability. The seat provides a place to rest if you have decreased strength or pain in your legs and feet. These are a good choice for people who fatigue easily.

Upright walkers

Upright walkers have four wheels and a similar braking system to rollators. Seats on an upright walker are slightly larger, making them popular among seniors who need extra seat space. They also come with either a basket or bag to carry objects.

rollator 4 Wheel Aluminium Walker

Upright walkers are taller and beneficial for posture because your forearms rest in the device. People with hand or wrist weakness, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, traumatic brain injury, stroke, and neurological deficits often do well with upright walkers. Upright walkers allow you to distribute weight through larger muscle groups, taking some burden off your legs.

Standard walkers

Lightweight and compact, standard walkers can come with four stationary posts or two small wheels in the front. Walkers with two front wheels are called front-wheeled walkers. Standard walkers provide mobility support, but you must lift the walker with your hands and put it back down while moving. Because of this lifting feature, they are unsuitable for ambulating longer distances. However, they provide a safe and stable option in the home, preventing you from falling forward and improving your balance.

standard Walking Frame

Typically, standard walkers fit easily through doorways, have a tighter turning radius in small spaces, and can be used as a transfer aid. They do not have a seat, and your body is positioned within the frame. Much of the work is done through your upper body. Standard walkers are well suited for those with limited weight-bearing in their lower extremities, pain, surgery, general weakness, or balance issues.

How often will Medicare pay for a walker?

Typically, Medicare will provide walker coverage every five years. If your walker needs replacement parts or repairs before five years, Medicare will usually cover these expenses if you use an approved technician to service your walker. If the repairs cost more than a new walker, Medicare may decide it is cheaper to get a new walker before the five years are up. Medicare generally covers lost or stolen walkers or those damaged beyond repair.

If your mobility needs are short-term, Medicare may insist on a rental. Likewise, Medicare can direct you to buy equipment for long-term needs. Still, in other situations, Medicare may give you the choice to buy or rent your DME.

Where can I get a walker covered by Medicare?

Once you have a prescription, you must fill it at a medical equipment company approved by Medicare. For some upright walkers, you may have to pay the total cost upfront and be reimbursed by Medicare later. To avoid financial surprises, clarify these details with your provider and Medicare representative.

Not all DME companies accept Medicare payments at the total price, meaning they could charge you more than what Medicare is contracted to pay them. Companies are not always forthcoming with this information, and insurance companies may expect members to educate themselves about their responsibilities. Many people do not know what to ask until they get a bill; by then, it is too late. Always ask if the approved DME company accepts the Medicare assignment as full payment, so you do not incur an extra out-of-pocket cost. You can search for DME companies on Medicare.gov.

How much will a walker cost with Medicare?

The exact cost of your walker depends on several factors. Standard walkers are the least expensive, and you can expect to pay more for upright walkers and rollators. Variations in models, construction, quality, and features will affect the price. Whether renting for the short term or buying the equipment for the long term, you will need to go through an approved company.

After meeting your Part B deductible, you will owe 20% of the Medicare-approved cost for your unit. Medicare covers the other 80%. You may be eligible for additional coverage with a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan. The details vary per plan, so talk with your benefits specialist for clarification.

Can I get a walker for free?

You cannot get a free walker from Medicare. Additionally, you need to meet all of Medicare’s criteria before they will authorize this service. If your provider recommends a walker, but you cannot meet your payment responsibilities, there are community organizations to help seniors access equipment. Talk with your doctor's office as they often have lists of community resources. Along with churches, synagogues, mosques, and community organizations, some companies offer refurbished medical equipment to the public. Often the equipment has been donated, and these savings are passed on to the consumer with low to no-cost pricing of medical supplies.

If you obtain previously used or refurbished walkers, they must be in good working order. The last thing you want is to suffer a debilitating injury from defective or old, unsafe equipment.

Are other walking aids covered by Medicare?

If you need a knee scooter due to an injury or surgery on your leg, Medicare Part B will not cover it. However, you may be eligible for this benefit if you have Medicare Advantage or a dual plan with Medicaid. You will need to clarify the details with your insurance representative.

Medicare covers canes when you follow the same process required for all Part B durable medical equipment requests. Your doctor must provide supporting medical records indicating you need a standard, offset, or quad cane. You will need a valid prescription. When you follow the same rules and use Medicare-approved providers and vendors, Medicare will cover 80% of the cost after you meet your Part B deductible.

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