It’s important to understand what medical devices and equipment are covered by Medicare and what isn’t. Stair lifts, unfortunately, are not covered by Medicare (specifically Part B) because they aren’t considered durable medical equipment (DME), which are the kinds of equipment it covers. Medicare considers stair lifts home modifications rather than DME.
There are a few ways you can get financial support for stair lifts through local and national organizations. Certain Medicare Advantage plans also may cover the costs of stair lifts, but you’ll want to check with your insurance provider to make sure.
Stair lifts help people with mobility challenges get up and down the stairs. They are professionally installed devices that hook a chair onto a track following a set of stairs upwards. A person sits on the chair at the bottom or top of a staircase, secures a seatbelt or safety bar, and pushes a button on a remote to glide up and down the stairs as needed.
Stair lifts provide tremendous benefit for people with mobility challenges, including those with arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. They’re also helpful for people who simply have trouble walking up the stairs due to balance issues or injuries. Stair lifts are often installed by people who choose to age in place and need support getting up and down the stairs in their home.
One of the alternatives to installing a stair lift is installing an elevator. By comparison, stair lifts are significantly less expensive, and don’t require nearly as much construction. Of course, another option would be to move to a new home that only has one level, but many older adults wish to continue living in their current homes that are filled with memories.
Although stair lifts can provide invaluable support, there are a few drawbacks to keep in mind if you decide to install one in your home.
Stair lifts can be costly
While cheaper than elevators, stair lifts are still relatively expensive, and can be very expensive, depending on the model and installation process. What’s more, the cost to maintain and repair stair lifts can be a burden. And because stair lifts are not covered by Medicare, it can also be a challenge to find ways to save.
Stair lifts require space
While it’s fairly easy to install stair lifts in spacious homes with wider staircases, the same can’t be said for small spaces. It can be challenging to install stair lifts in a home with more narrow or uniquely shaped staircases. If you need custom installations for a staircase with landings or turns, you’ll often have to pay more for home improvement costs.
Unfortunately, Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) and Medicare Supplement (Medigap) does not cover costs associated with stair lifts. Because the program considers these devices home modifications rather than durable medical equipment (DME), Medicare does not include stair lifts for mobility-related issues.
In certain circumstances, if deemed medically necessary, you may get coverage for a stair lift with a Medicare Advantage plan. However, it’s important to check with your policy, as coverage for stair lifts is rare.
Medicare Part B covers the following medical equipment, but this list isn’t comprehensive. Make sure you check with your provider for specifics around the medical devices you need and how your Medicare coverage can help pay for them.
In order to be eligible for coverage, you’ll need to get a doctor’s written order for the medical device. If you need help paying for a mobility device, you’ll also need to meet the requirements for having challenges with limited mobility.
As mentioned above, the cost of a stair lift can vary depending on the complexity of the staircase layout. How your staircase looks can affect how costly the installation process is as well. For example, a basic lift on a staircase with no curved layout can cost between $2,000 to $5,000. If you have a curved structure or other custom design, you may need to pay beyond $30,000 in some cases for a stair lift.
Other factors that affect the pricing of stair lifts include additional features and customization on the seat, whether or not you choose backup battery options, and ongoing maintenance of the stair lift.
While Medicare does not include coverage for stair lifts, you can find alternative financial assistance to help you pay for them.
If you are still on your employer’s insurance or you have private insurance, some private health insurance plans might have different policies around coverage for stair lifts. Check with your insurance provider.
Medicaid, a government program that provides free or low-cost insurance, may offer coverage for home modifications. Whether or not Medicaid can cover stair lifts depends on your individual circumstances, the state you reside in, and your insurance plan.
Veterans may be eligible for benefits that cover home modifications, including stair lifts. Get in touch with the VA to inquire about available programs.
Your state might have programs, grants, and services dedicated to assisting people with disabilities. Providing home modifications or helping with the cost of installation is one way some states provide financial support. Get in touch with your state's Department of Health and Human Services for more information.
Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is a great place to seek information about accessibility concerns and financial assistance on equipment for people with disabilities. Use this Eldercare Locator to find your local ADRC.
Because stair lifts can be costly, many companies offer financing plans or other payment options so you can pay over time.
Nonprofit organizations like Rebuilding Together, a national organization dedicated to housing, provide financial resources to help pay for accessibility tools. Check with your local and national nonprofits dedicated to accessibility and people with disabilities.
Medicare coverage isn’t always straightforward. Before pursuing any of these options, you’ll want to thoroughly research the requirements, eligibility criteria, and application processes associated with each choice. If you have questions about what Medicare can and can’t cover, including stair lifts and other mobility devices, contact one of our licensed Medicare Advisors by calling us at (855)-900-2427.