Will Medicare cover a stair lift?

Barbz asked...

I live in a condo which is accessed by walking up 13 steps. I know medicare can cover a power chair but can it cover a stair lift I broke my hip a year ago and now my knees are really painful ging up and down the stairs . We added a grab bar at the top of the steps.

Expert Answer

Medicare Part B covers many types of what is called "durable" medical equipment for use in the home, but it doesn't pay for construction or installation of permanent changes to the actual physical structure. So, Medicare Part B regularly covers the type of lift -- moveable and temporary -- that is used to help a patient get in and out of bed or a chair. But it sounds like what you are considering is a type of lift that would carry you up and down these 13 stairs. If that would require construction to the stairway to your condo, Medicare would not cover it. However, if a Medicare-certified medical equipment supplier had some kind of device that could assist you up the stairs but would not require any change in the physical structure of the stairway, Medicare might cover it.

The best way for you to investigate whether such Medicare-covered equipment exists is to contact local Medicare-certified medical equipment suppliers. The official Medicare web site offers a list of approved durable medical equipment suppliers for your area. Try several of them, explaining your problem and asking what Medicare-covered equipment they have that might help you. For Medicare to cover any equipment, however, it must be prescribed by your doctor and be provided by a supplier officially approved by Medicare. To find out more about the general Medicare rules concerning coverage of durable medical equipment, look at Medicare's publication Medicare Coverage of Durable Medical Equipment and Other Devices.

You might also consider asking your primary care doctor for a referral to an occupational therapist. The name "occupational therapist" is a little misleading -- they not only help people with activities related to an occupation but also with the normal activities of daily life. An occupational therapist might be able to help you learn how to more easily, safely, and less painfully get up and down the stairs, and might also be able to recommend Medicare-covered equipment for you. A certain amount of occupational therapy is covered by Medicare Part B.