Renting medical equipment is something seniors should plan for. However, people of all ages may need to have affordable access to equipment from time to time.
Renting medical equipment is often more affordable than purchasing it, even for longer-term uses. However, deciding whether to rent or buy medical equipment is more personal than just your preference. Most insurance companies and Medicare will specify whether equipment ordered by a doctor must be rented, or purchased.
Six Ways to Save Money on Medical Equipment Rental
- Get medicare or insurance
- Ask about long-term rental discounts
- Find non-project lending programs in your area
- Borrow money from family and friends
- Travel agents are available to help you.
- Instead, consider buying used.
These six tips will help you to keep your costs down on everything, from power wheelchairs to patient lifts and hospital beds.
1. Get Medicare or Insurance
You should use Medicare if you have Original Medicare and your doctor has determined that certain equipment is medically necessary for your health and quality.
You don’t have to rent if Medicare requires it. In most cases, Medicare covers 80%. After 13 months, the equipment will be yours.
Even if you don’t have Medicare, but have health insurance, check to see if your policy covers rental equipment. While private insurance companies do not have to provide DME coverage, many do.
2. Ask about Long-Term Rental Discounts
If your medical issue is short-term, paying month-to-month might be a good option. However, if you think the equipment may be needed for many months or years, ask about long-term equipment rental discounts.
3. Find non-profit lending programs in your area
If you are willing to accept gently used medical equipment, there may be opportunities for you to rent it free of charge through your local non-profit. You can use the Eldercare Locator to find assistance in your local area if you aren’t sure where else to look.
Local senior resource centers and religious organizations may be able to offer equipment rental at no cost, particularly for low-cost items such as wheelchairs, canes, and walkers. They may have the item you need, or they might be able to point you to other resources.
Each state has its own assistance programs, which can help you find affordable rental options. This list contains state resources that can help you get started.
4. Borrow from friends and family
You might consider lending the equipment to a friend, relative, or loved one who may have used a wheelchair, patient lift, or cane in the past.
If you are aware that the item was expensive, you might offer to rent it for a small fee. Although they might not agree to it, the gesture is always appreciated.
5. Assist a travel agent
A travel agent can help you arrange equipment rental with hotels, airlines, and other tourist destinations such as museums and amusement parks if you have medical equipment.
Renting while traveling is likely to cost more than renting at home, and will not be covered by insurance. It’s better than paying high fees to drive or fly with heavy medical equipment.
6. You might consider buying (Used) instead
Renting medical equipment is a great option in many cases. It gives you more freedom as your health changes and allows you to access newer technology. And it is often cheaper.
However, if your child is in a serious accident and needs crutches to get around the house or you need one for routine surgery, then it may be a good idea to purchase a set of basic crutches from a thrift shop or garage sale.
Online shopping is possible for used medical equipment at affordable prices on sites such as Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace. You can save money by buying used equipment if you don’t require all the bells & whistles.
Amazon sometimes has the lowest prices on new equipment. Although you may not want to spend a lot on something like an oxygen machine or a wheelchair, it is possible to get crutches at a discount from the online retailer.
What is Durable Medical Equipment?
Durable Medical Equipment (DME), or durable medical equipment, is an assistive device that can be used repeatedly to help people with a medical condition. While anyone can use crutches or wheelchairs at any time, seniors are the most frequent users of DME. Medicare Part B contains specific provisions to allow for this equipment.
This partial list shows a snapshot of medically required equipment doctors frequently prescribe (and which Medicare may cover).
- Scooters, power wheelchairs, and wheelchairs
- Walkers, crutches, and canes
- Hospital beds
- Patient lifts
- CPAP devices
- Commode chairs
- Test strips and blood sugar meters
- Oxygen equipment
- Lancet devices
- Suction pumps
If you are eligible for Original Medicare (Part A or Part B), and your doctor has deemed certain medical equipment or supplies necessary, you can contact Medicare to find out if the coverage applies. Also, you will need to rent or buy it in order to get it covered.
Buying vs. Renting durable medical equipment
There are many options for accessing medical equipment at home, as well as assistive devices, and supplies.
- Durable medical equipment can be purchased new or used.
- Buy gently used medical equipment at a discounted price
- Rent durable medical equipment for a month or longer.
However, if you have Medicare and certain insurance policies, there may not be a choice. These policies often only pay a portion of the cost if you choose one.
Your actual insurance policy will be the most important factor when deciding whether to rent or buy durable medical equipment.
If Medicare requires that you rent your supplies, it’s usually a good idea. Medicare covers 80% of your monthly rental fee for equipment over 13 months. After 13 months, the equipment is usually yours.
Not everyone has Medicare and sometimes Medicare gives you the option. If you have the option to rent or buy your hospital bed, patient lift, or other equipment, here are some things you should consider.
What length of time will you need the equipment?
You might not require your medical equipment if you are a healthy patient recovering from an invasive procedure or broken bone. You can save money by renting a wheelchair for a week if you are able to find one that is affordable.
Some medical equipment rental companies can rent assistive devices for extended periods of time. You can determine the cost of long-term rental and outright purchase if you know how long you will need the equipment.
How does your budget look?
You might consider spending several thousand dollars to purchase medical equipment.
For example, a patient lift might cost $2,500. Hospital beds can cost up to $10,000. Power wheelchairs are also available. These can cost more than $15,000.
Even if you have Medicare or other health insurance, it is possible to not cover the initial cost of medical equipment if you live on a fixed income. Although financing is possible, renting equipment is often cheaper.
Renting is a monthly expense, not an upfront price. Renting can be a burden for seniors who have multiple health issues or live in an expensive independent living facility. This extra monthly cost is not covered by Medicare or a relative.
How Many Times Do You Travel?
It is not easy to transport some medical equipment, even within a small town. Although CPAPs and Infusion Pumps can be transported easily, motorized scooters or hospital beds may require special vehicles for transport.
If you rent heavy durable medical equipment, your rental company may include delivery and pickup. If you’re traveling outside of your home state, some rental companies will coordinate the equipment.
Medical Equipment Rental: Benefits
There are many benefits to renting medical equipment. These are some of the benefits to consider:
Stay up-to-date with the latest tech
You run the risk of the technology becoming obsolete if you purchase new, or gently used, home medical equipment. This means that you might have to look elsewhere for a new device, and it may be harder to sell your existing one.
Renting home medical equipment allows you to upgrade as new technology becomes available.
Service and Repair
Hospital beds and basic wheelchairs are unlikely to require much maintenance. However, more complex systems such as CPAPs, motorized and motorized wheelchairs, blood sugar meters, and oxygen equipment and accessories can malfunction and need repair from time to time.
These costs would be borne by the buyer. You can, however, contact rental equipment companies to arrange for repairs — usually on their dime.
Sometimes our health needs can change for the better or worse. It doesn’t matter if you rent equipment month to month. You can return the equipment if your doctor tells you that you don’t need it anymore.
However, if your doctor changes his mind shortly after you purchase the equipment, you will still be able to keep it and get the money back.