Does Medicare Cover Stair Lifts?
Unfortunately, Original Medicare does not cover stair lifts. While Medicare Part B generally covers durable medical equipment (DME) like wheelchairs or crutches, stair lifts are considered self-help devices, not DME.
Medicare Part B defines DME as equipment that meets the following criteria:
- Durable and can withstand repeated use
- Prescribed by a health care provider for a medical reason
- Typically only valuable for someone who is sick or injured
- It can be used at home
- Expected to last at least three years
Though Original Medicare may not cover stair lifts, some Medicare Advantage plans might. Check with your provider to see whether stair lifts are covered and at what level.
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Improving Your Quality of Life With a Stair Lift
A stair lift, or chair lift, is a motorized seating device typically attached to a rail that runs along the staircase to help transport you between different floors in your home. Here are some common types of stair lifts on the market.
- Straight Chair Lifts: These types of chair lifts are explicitly built for staircases that are straight and have standardized rails that can be cut to fit the length of any straight staircase.
- Curved Stair Lifts: Tailored for curved or winding staircases, these types of stair lifts are perfect if your home has a staircase with multiple landings or turns.
- Outdoor Stair Lifts: Outdoor stair lifts are typically built with durable and weather-resistant material, making them great for outdoor settings such as porches, decks, or garden steps.
- Perch Stair Lifts: Perch stair lifts transport you between floors in a standing position. This type of stair lift is specifically designed for those with restricted movement in the knee or hip joints and may find sitting painful.
- Wheelchair Platform Lifts: Wheelchair platform lifts come with a platform that can accommodate wheelchairs, allowing wheelchair-bound individuals to reach different levels of the home safely.
- Heavy-Duty Stair Lifts: Heavy-duty stair lifts are durable; most have weight capacities between 400 and 600 lbs.
For people with mobility issues living in a multi-story home, stair lifts can help them get around the house and travel between floors without falling or slipping. So, consider looking into stair lifts if you have trouble navigating a multi-level house due to mobility issues.
Limitations on Medicare’s Coverage of Stair Lifts
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) typically will not cover stairlifts because they classify these devices as home modifications rather than durable medical equipment. The following are the types of medical devices Medicare Part B generally covers instead:
- Pressure-reducing beds
- Blood sugar monitors
- Commode chairs
- Hospital beds
- Infusion pumps and supplies
- Manual and power wheelchairs
- Nebulizers and some nebulizer medications
- Oxygen equipment Patient lifts to lift you from a bed or wheelchair
- Sleep apnea devices and accessories
- Suction pumps
While Original Medicare does not cover stair lifts, some Medicare Advantage Plans may help you shoulder the cost of this mobility device if your doctor writes a prescription order for it.
Does Medigap Cover Stair Lifts?
No, Medigap typically does not cover stair lifts. Medigap is a supplemental insurance plan offered by private companies that beneficiaries can use along with their Original Medicare to pay for out-of-pocket costs like coinsurance and copayments. However, since Medigap is used to fill in the gaps in Medicare coverage, it typically will not cover healthcare costs that Medicare does not cover at all.
How Does Medicare Advantage Cover Stair Lifts?
Medicare Advantage, sometimes called Medicare Part C, is a type of privately-run health insurance that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Original Medicare benefits. These plans may also offer some extra benefits that Original Medicare does not cover, such as vision, hearing, and dental services.
In most cases, your Medicare Advantage plan should cover a portion or even all of your stair lift cost if you have a doctor’s approval. However, every plan differs, and coverage could vary depending on the insurer. If you’re curious whether your Medicare Advantage plan covers stair lifts, consult your provider or consult a trusted agent.
Generally, the only way to obtain coverage for a stair lift through your Medicare Advantage plan would be with a doctor’s prescription. Here’s how to get a prescription from your primary care doctor:
- Evaluate Your Mobility Needs: First, assess your condition and mobility needs so that you can communicate them clearly to your doctor.
- Gather Supporting Evidence: Next, gather supporting evidence, like past medical history and test results, to help strengthen your case.
- Consult With Your Primary Care Doctor: It’s time to consult with your primary care doctor. Your doctor may prescribe the appointment or refer you to a specialist if needed depending on your situation.
How Much Do Stair Lifts Cost?
Stair lifts can be expensive, especially since Original Medicare does not consider them medically necessary and will not help foot the bill. Here’s how much you could expect to pay out-of-pocket if you’re considering installing a stair lift in your home:
Strait Chair Lift
$2,000 to $9,000
Curved Stair Lift
$9,000 to $20,000
Outdoor Stair Lift
$2,000 to $10,000
Perch Stair Lift
$2,500 to $20,000
Wheelchair Platform Lift
$10,000 to $25,000
Heavy-Duty Stair Lift
$5,000 to $20,000
If you’re on a tight budget and cannot afford to pay up to five figures for a stair lift, consider purchasing refurbished or second-hand stair lifts to reduce costs. Just be sure to perform your due diligence and ensure the stair lift is in good condition and safe to use.
How Much Do Stair Lifts Cost With Medicare Advantage?
Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer coverage for stair lifts if your doctor prescribes them, but the extent of coverage can vary. Check with your provider for more details. If you’re searching for a Medicare Advantage Plan covering stair lifts, ask about it before joining and compare coverage amounts across multiple insurance providers.
Alternative Ways To Pay for a Stair Lift
Outside of Medicare Advantage plans, you may be able to access a stair life if you have health insurance through or can access any of the below programs.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that provides healthcare coverage for low-income individuals and households. Some Medicaid plans may cover home modifications or assistive devices, such as stair lifts, depending on the state. Contact your State Medicaid Agency to see whether you’d be eligible for coverage.
Veterans Administration Benefits
If you’re a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs could provide you financial assistance with home modifications like stair lifts if they’re deemed medically necessary. Contact your healthcare provider or local VA office for more information on eligibility requirements.
Non-Profit Organizations and Charities
Many non-profit organizations and charitable funds may also provide financial assistance or grants to help you purchase assistive devices. So if you need help paying for a stair lift, research funding opportunities by local and national organizations that focus on assisting those with mobility issues.
Home Equity and Personal Loans
A home equity loan is a type of secured loan where you use the equity in your home as collateral. In contrast, personal loans are typically unsecured and do not require collateral. With these loans, you borrow funds to pay for the stair lift upfront and repay the money over time. Remember, taking out a loan and incurring debt to pay for a stair lift should be your last resort since you’ll incur interest. But if you must borrow money, research and compare interest rates, terms, and repayment options from different lenders to find the best deal.
Manufacturer Financing or Payment Plans
Some stair lift manufacturers offer financing options, such as payment plans, to help make stair lift costs more manageable. Contact your stair lift manufacturer directly to ask about financing options.
Tips For Making Stairs Safer
If you’re unable to obtain coverage for a chair lift or are currently in the process of applying for financial assistance, you can make your stairs safer in the meantime by implementing these tips:
- Handrails: Handrails can be a lifesaver if you slip or miss a step going up or down the stairs. If you have not already, consider installing handrails. While Original Medicare does not cover them, handrails are typically relatively affordable and should not cost over $1,000.
- Non Slip Surfaces: Accidentally slipping down the stairs can cause serious injuries like head trauma or broken hips. Add nonslip strips or mats onto your stairs for increased traction and safety.
- Adequate Lighting: Navigating the stairway in dim lighting can be a recipe for disaster. Add light bulbs or lamps to brighten your staircase and reduce the risk of accidents.
- Contrast and Visibility: Consider painting contrasting colors at the edge of each stair to indicate a change of plane and increase visibility so that you can better distinguish between each step.
- Regular Maintenance: Lastly, remember to schedule regular maintenance checks and repairs to ensure the stairs and railings remain safe and in good condition.
What This Means for You
As you age or experience health challenges, going up and down the stairs can become inconvenient and even dangerous. A slip or a fall could land you in the hospital, so it’s crucial to start thinking about stair safety if you live in a multi-story home. And while Medicare will not help shoulder the cost of stair lifts, you can explore alternative options such as Medicare Advantage Plans, manufacturer financing, and Veterans Administration Benefits to make your stairway safer and more accessible.