Coverage for a stair lift

Does Medicare cover stair lifts?

A home stair lift can transform daily living for you or a loved one. As you consider getting one, you’ll want to plan for the costs. Generally speaking, a stair lift can be a big investment and you’ll want to exhaust all possibilities for coverage or discounts. Here we’ll give you a sense of what Medicare covers, as well as how to pay for a stair lift in other ways. 

Are stair lifts covered by Medicare?

The bottom line: stair lifts aren’t typically covered by Medicare. 

This may be surprising to hear, but Medicare doesn’t usually cover stair lifts. That’s because for Medicare to cover equipment like this it must be “medically-necessary.” While it may seem very necessary to your family, Medicare considers a stair lift more like a home modification and less like a medical device. 

Of course, you should check with your doctor just in case. Medicare does cover any “Durable Medical Equipment” that a doctor prescribes you. Be aware that to get coverage for any durable medical equipment, both your doctor and your supplier must be Medicare-enrolled. This goes for any medical equipment – walker, oxygen tank, etc. – so plan in advance and see your doctor first.

In practice, doctors don’t usually prescribe stair lifts as medically necessary, though if you feel your situation is unique be sure to talk to your doctor within your Medicare network.

Are stair lifts covered by Medicaid?

If you or a loved one is eligible for Medicaid, you might have some opportunity for coverage. This depends 100% on your state of residence. As you recall, Medicaid is a state-by-state program, which means every place has its own coverage rules and programs. 

With Medicaid, be on the lookout for waiver programs. Waiver programs may help cover the cost of a stair lift, depending on your location. These programs allow families to decide what to spend medical waivers on. In this case, you may be able to use a medical waiver to offset the cost. 

Check with your state’s Medicaid program and find out if they run a waiver program that might allow this type of purchase. 

How else can I pay for a stair lift?

If you can’t get coverage from Medicare or Medicaid, you may have a few other options. Once again, your personal situation and location will be deciding factors for eligibility to these programs. 

Some possible options include:

  • Long-term care insurance: Long-term care insurance will often pay for equipment such as stair lifts. You should check with your insurance provider to find out whether this is covered. At the same time, if you have a hybrid life insurance plan, you may be able to get early payouts if you’re diagnosed with a chronic condition. Be sure to check the fine print of your life insurance as well. 
  • Area Agencies on Aging (AAA): Contact your local Area Agency on Aging. These organizations sometimes provide relief for seniors who need certain medical equipment. This depends highly on your location, so go ahead and put in your zip code to find out what types of programs are available near you.
  • VA benefits: If you’re a vet, you may qualify for certain VA benefits, such as medical equipment or home modifications. This will depend greatly on whether your medical condition is a result of service or not. Check with a VA benefit counselor to check your eligibility. 

Besides these options, there’s not much else that will cover medical equipment partially or in full. You might try checking with any local nonprofits to see if they offer any assistance. 

How much do stair lifts cost out of pocket?

If you’re not eligible for coverage for a stair lift, you may have to pay out of pocket. On the whole, stair lifts are a hefty investment. However, the final cost will depend on your home needs. 

For example, a straight stair lift can go as low as $1,500, while a curved stair lift starts at about $6,000. Depending on your staircase and extra features, they can range even higher, from $8,000-$14,000. This is especially true if you need a custom-made solution for your stairs. 

What about refurbished or used stair lifts?

If you’re on the market for a refurbished or used stair lift, you may be able to save on the initial price. Overall, refurbished stair lifts will save you a couple hundred dollars. This may or may not be a worthwhile investment, because refurbished lifts don’t usually come with warranty.

On the other hand, if you don’t plan on using the stair lift for very long – for example, you have a temporary injury – you might consider a stair lift rental. Rentals usually cost around $250/month, in addition to installation costs and a security deposit. This may be a good option for short-term use, though curved stair lifts may not be available depending on your staircase needs. (You can learn more about top medical equipment rental companies here.)

What other costs are involved in getting a stair lift?

Unfortunately, the price of the stair lift isn’t the only cost. You’ll also have to factor in installment and maintenance costs. 

For example, a typical installment costs hundreds of dollars. This will depend on the stair lift company you choose, so be sure to ask before purchase. A dealer will usually inspect the space before completing any installment to avoid error.

At the same time, you have to keep the stair lift maintained over time. This may mean a yearly inspection, or replacing parts throughout the years. This too can be costly.

What else can raise the price of a stair lift?

The price of a stair lift can also increase due to logistical issues. For example, it may be subject to extra installation costs if these situations apply:

  • Your staircase is especially uneven, steep or curvy.
  • You need a higher weight capacity for the lift.
  • You want the stair lift to blend in with current home decor.
  • You need extra rail footage above standard.
  • You need a load-bearing wall for reinforcement.
  • An electrical socket is nowhere near the desired stair lift.
  • You live in a remote area.

In these cases, you may have to pay more in order to get the stair lift according to your needs.

Is there an alternative to a stair lift?

Alternatives to stair lifts will depend on the patient. Some mobility aids may include canes or walkers. Some families also choose to transfer the bedroom to the first floor so that there’s no immediate need to go up and down the stairs. If you have plenty of funds, you might also consider a home elevator, though the cost will be much higher than a stair lift.

Final takeaway

Stair lifts can be a costly investment, but may be worth improving the quality of life for you or a loved one. Be sure to check your eligibility for the programs listed above. At the same time, you can look for a used or refurbished stair lift to get a cheaper option. We wish you the best with your stair lift hunt!

Interested in more senior products and topics? Check out My Caring Plan for in-depth senior guides.

Sources:

  1. Patient Lift Coverage, Medicare, www.medicare.gov
  2. National Association of Area Agencies on Aging, www.n4a.org

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