Does Medicare cover bed alarms ?
For a caregiver of elderly loved ones and parents, such as myself, nighttime can present some of the more difficult situations, and bed alarms can be part of the solutions.
If your loved one is a wanderer, if they need help getting out of bed, or just so that you aware that you may need to check on them in a few minutes, bed alarms can discreetly let you know that your loved one is on the move.
What helps even more is to know how you are going to pay for a bed alarm…..
Original Medicare Part B does not typically cover bed alarms for use in the home, as they are not deemed to be “medically necessary”. If your doctor says the items are “medically necessary” you may have a chance of getting them covered.
Why won’t Medicare cover bed alarms ?
Original Medicare Part B covers medical equipment for use in the home, and unfortunately bed alarms do not qualify as they are not deemed to be “medically necessary”.
There are many items, which like bed alarms we may consider totally necessary, as caregivers, because they make our job easier and our loved one’s lives more comfortable, but as long as they are not “medically necessary” it will be virtually impossible to get them covered by Original Medicare Part B.
Gauze, adult diapers, air cleaners, disposable sheets, fall alarms and incontinence pads are all items that are extremely helpful and often necessary, but these are not typically covered by Original Medicare, as they are not “medically necessary”.
Of course, if your doctor says the items are “medically necessary” you may have a chance of getting them covered.
I have included a lengthy list of what is not typically covered below.
If you want to learn about the different types of bed alarms, I have a long article which looks at the different types and their possibilities – I have bought and tested the basic types and used them with my mom to find out what we found to be best. You can read that article here.
Does Medicare cover bathroom equipment ?
Like bed alarms for the nighttime, there’s quite a few pieces of equipment which could make the bathroom safer to use for our elderly loved ones.
Unfortunately though, for the same reasons, most of this equipment is not considered “medically necessary” and is not covered.
Grab bars, shower chairs, raised toilet seats, walk in bathtubs, bathtub transfer seats, non-slip mats, floor to ceiling poles, and toilet safety frames are all not covered by Medicare Part B, and it’s because Medicare considers them to be “for comfort’s sake”.
Medicare does though cover walkers, bedside commodes and crutches, if they are deemed to be “medically necessary” by a Medicare enrolled doctor.
If bathroom safety is one of your concerns for your loved one, I have a long article with over 50 practical tips and products for making it safer, that I have put together over the years of caring for my elderly parents. You can read that here.
How does Original Medicare define equipment that it will cover ?
For equipment that Medicare will cover for use in the home the Medicare classification is “Durable Medical Equipment” or DME.
I have made a thorough list of Durable Medical Equipment typically covered by Medicare below. To go straight to it click here.
An item is considered, by Medicare, as “Durable Medical Equipment” if it fulfills their following criteria:
- the equipment must be durable (must be able to withstand repeated use overtime)
- the equipment can only be used for a medical reason, as opposed to just for comfort
- the equipment is not normally of use to someone who isn’t sick or injured
- the equipment must be for use in your home
- the equipment should have an expected lifetime of at least 3 years
If your choice of equipment does not meet these criteria, you most likely won’t be considered for coverage by Medicare.
To find a local Medicare supplier check this link at Medicare.gov
How does your loved one qualify for Medicare covered DME ?
For your loved one to qualify for coverage of DME for “use in their home” with Medicare Part B, your loved one –
- has to be enrolled in Medicare Part B
- has to have a prescription signed by their Medicare-enrolled doctor which states that the DME is a “medically necessary” and meets the Medicare criteria for that particular piece of equipment
- has to buy the DME from a Medicare-enrolled supplier
For Original Medicare Part B “living at home” is considered to mean –
- living in your own home
- living in the family home
- living in the community, such as assisted living
Care facilities – hospitals or nursing homes, don’t qualify as a “home” for Medicare Part B (they are covered under Medicare Part A – hospital treatment – DME required in a nursing facility for up to 100 days will be provided by the facility).
But a long-term care facility, such as assisted living, can qualify as a “home” for Medicare part B.
What to do once your loved one has a doctor’s signed prescription for a DME ?
If Medicare Part B is agreed that your loved one’s purchase is “medically necessary”, they will cover 80% of the Medicare-approved price of your loved one’s DME.
Your loved one is then responsible for their Medicare co-payment, the equivalent of 20% of the Medicare-approved price of the DME, and only if they have used a Medicare-enrolled “participating” supplier who accepts assignment.
If not, they may pay much more – so read on !
In addition to the co-payment of 20%, your loved one will also have to pay their annual deductible, if it hasn’t already been met.
Medicare may purchase or rent DME’s
It will depend on the cost of the equipment as to whether Medicare purchases items from the supplier outright, or if they rent it.
The more important the cost of the equipment, the greater the chance that Medicare will rent it on a monthly basis from a supplier.
During the rental period if the equipment is rented from a Medicare-enrolled “participating” supplier who accepts “assignment”, there will be a monthly co-payment of 20% of the Medicare-approved rental price which your loved one will have to pay.
How to avoid over-paying for the equipment ?
As I said earlier your loved one needs to be careful to meticulously follow all the steps of the process to get the best coverage for their equipment.
To avoid over-paying for their DME your loved one has to use a Medicare enrolled “participating” supplier who accepts “assignment”.
This ensures the DME is being bought for the lowest possible price – the Medicare-approved price.
Why is this ?
There are two types of Medicare suppliers –
- Medicare Suppliers
- Medicare “Participating” Suppliers
Medicare and Medicare “Participating” Suppliers have an agreement that Medicare “Participating” Suppliers will accept what is called “assignment” – they will only charge the Medicare-approved price for DME.
Suppliers who are not “Participating” can charge up to 15% more than the Medicare-approved price for DME.
What happens if my loved one doesn’t use a “Participating Supplier” ?
A Medicare-enrolled supplier who is not a “Participating” supplier –
- accepts payment from Medicare for DME at the Medicare-approved price
- but can actually sell the DME to the beneficiary at whatever price they choose
As a result –
- Medicare pays the Medicare-enrolled supplier 80% of the Medicare-approved price for the DME
- your loved one pays their 20% co-pay of the Medicare-approved price + the difference between the Medicare-approved price, and the supplier’s price
- your loved one also pays their deductible if it applies
So in real terms it plays out like this –
Medicare-approved bed alarm price – 100$
Medicare-enrolled Supplier bed alarm price price -115$
- Medicare pay 80% 0f the Medicare-approve price = 80$
- Your loved one pays 20% co-pay of Medicare-approve price = 20$
- Your loved one then pays the difference between the Medicare-approved price, and the Medicare-enrolled Supplier price – 115$ – 100$ = 15$
- So, your loved one pays 20$ + 15$ = 35$
If your loved one’s Medicare-enrolled supplier had been a “participating” supplier who accepts “assignment”, they would have paid 15$ less, because he only charges the Medicare approved-price.
Your loved one should always use a Medicare-enrolled Participating Supplier and confirm that the supplier accepts “assignment”, and this way they won’t over-pay for their DME.
What happens with Medicare Advantage ?
Private companies which have been contracted by Medicare to provide Medicare services run the Medicare Advantage plans and must, by law, provide at least the same coverage and services, as Original Medicare Parts A and B.
The plans may also provide more than Original Medicare Parts A and B, and some may cover extra DME not covered by Medicare.
For the exact terms, process, and which suppliers to use, your loved one must consult with their provider, if they have a Medicare Advantage plan.
Durable Medical Equipment generally covered by Medicare if you qualify
If you don’t find the equipment you are looking for in my list of Medicare covered DME’s below, you can use this link to Mediace.gov
Alternating Pressure Pads and Mattresses
Audible/visible Signal Pacemaker Monitor
Pressure reducing beds, mattresses, and mattress overlays used to prevent bed sores
Bed Side Rails
Bed Trapeze – covered if your loved one is confined to their bed and needs one to change position
Blood sugar monitors
Blood sugar (glucose) test strips
Canes (however, white canes for the blind aren’t covered)
Continuous passive motion (CPM) machines
Continuous Positive Pressure Airway Devices, Accessories and Therapy
Cushion Lift Power Seat
Digital Electronic Pacemaker
Electric Hospital beds
Gel Flotation Pads and Mattresses
Glucose Control Solutions
Infusion pumps and supplies (when necessary to administer certain drugs)
Manual wheelchairs and power mobility devices (power wheelchairs or scooters needed for use inside the home)
Mobile Geriatric Chair
Nebulizers and some nebulizer medications (if reasonable and necessary)
Oxygen equipment and accessories
Patient lifts (a medical device used to lift you from a bed or wheelchair)
Postural Drainage Boards
Self-Contained Pacemaker Monitor
Sleep apnea and Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices and accessories
Urinals (autoclavable hospital type)
Whirlpool Bath Equipment – if your loved one is homebound and the pool is medically needed. If your loved one isn’t homebound Medicare will cover the cost of treatments in a hospital.
DME usually not covered by Medicare
Augmentative Communication Device
Bed Exit Alarms
Bed Sensor Pads
Beds – Lounge
Blood Glucose Analyzers
Braille Teaching Texts
Caregiver Paging Systems
Catheters – except those which are used for permanent medical conditions where the catheter is considered as a prosthetic
Chair Exit Alarms
Chair Sensor Pads
Contact Lenses – Medicare helps pay for corrective lenses if you have cataract surgery to implant an intraocular lens
Disposable Bed Protectors
Door Exit Alarms
Electrical Wound Stimulation
Exit Alarm Mat
Eye Glasses – Medicare helps pay for corrective lenses if you have cataract surgery to implant an intraocular lens.
Heat and Massage Foam Cushion Pad
Heating and Cooling Plants
Humidifiers – not room humidifiers
Injectors (hypodermic jet pressure powered devices for Insulin injection)
Motion Sensor Exit Systems with Pagers
Over bed Tables
Paraffin Bath Units (if not Portable)
Portable Room Heaters
Portable Whirlpool Pumps
Preset Portable Oxygen Units
Pull String Alarms
Raised Toilet Seats
Special TV Close Caption
Speech Teaching Machines
Surgical Face Masks
Telephone Alert Systems
Television Assistive Listening Devices
Walk in Bathtubs
Get free assistance with understanding Medicare
You can get free help at SHIP – State Health Insurance Assistance Programs for Medicare.
SHIP offers free counseling services for people to speak with someone who’ll help them better understand Medicare, Medicare Advantage, Medigap and Medicaid benefits.
Typically it’s a phone service, but there are programs that also offer in-person meetings.
To find your local SHIP click on this link here
How to contact a SHIP counselor in your state step by step
Step 2 –
Click on one of the two buttons to find your state – they both lead to the same menu to choose your state
Step 4 –
The screen will open a window with the contact info and a phone number for you to call in your state.
Does Medicaid cover bed alarms ?
Due to the fact that Medicaid is funded both at a federal and a state level, a state may have multiple Medicaid programs and waivers, and each can have its own guidelines for eligibility.
These programs and waivers are intended for those on very low incomes, and your loved one will have to find out what the criteria are, and if there are any places left. All of this can be done through your loved one’s State Medicaid Office.
Your local Area Agencies on Aging should be able to help you find out as well.
Medicaid for skilled nursing facilities and hospitals
Hospitals and skilled nursing facilities handle the of ordering the equipment needed for your loved ones within while they are in the facility.
Medicaid and state programs for care services in the home
Medicaid programs which are not for inside skilled nursing facilities are called “Home and Community Based Services” (HCBS), “Waivers” or “1915 Waivers”.
The purpose of these programs and waivers is to help the beneficiaries maintain their independence living in their own homes.
You will find a comprehensive explanation of HCBS programs and waivers with more technical information is available at this link to medicaid.gov –
Just like Medicare, the programs and waivers pay for “home medical equipment”, but unlike Medicare, they will often cover 100% of the cost of the equipment.
The term “home” is used to mean that the beneficiary of the waivers and HCBS’s has to be living in –
- their own home
- their family home
- a group home
- an assisted living facility
- a custodial care facility
DME for home use may be easier to get covered by certain Medicaid waivers than by others
Some HCBS programs and waivers have what is known as “Consumer Direction”or “Self Direction”
In such a program, the participant will have an allotted budget to cover their living needs, and to help them maintain their independence in their home.
A financial advisor is appointed to help each participant manage the funds across their living needs.
Equipment not covered by Medicare, such as toilet safety frames, bathtub lifts, grab bars, if judged “medically necessary” and integral to the participant maintaining their independence, and also within the person’s allotted budget, can be purchased on some of these programs or waivers.
To find out more about Medicaid Self Direction click here
Programs which transition people from care institutions back into their own homes
The Medicaid program Money follows the person transitions elderly adults, who are in nursing facilities, back into their homes – this can also be assisted living.
If a certain piece of equipment is needed to make this happen, the program will purchase the equipment for them.
What can be considered a DME is again much less restricted than under Medicare.
If you don’t quite qualify for Medicaid
Some states have a program called Spend Down.
For people whose income is just too high, or their assets to great, the Spend-Down program helps them reduce those, and so that they can become eligible for Medicaid, HCBS’s and waivers.
For those with a lot of Medical expenses, one method is to allow them to subtract the medical expenses from their income, and if they then fall below the Medicaid income limit, they may be eligible to receive Medicaid benefits.
If you want to read something with a lot more detail on Spend-Down this is a good article about it on the US NEWS website here.
What is the procedure for purchasing DME with Medicaid waivers and HBSC programs ?
– your loved one has to get the doctor, or therapist, to provide a medical justification letter, which states that the equipment is medically necessary
– your loved one has to find a DME supplier who is Medicaid approved, and to pass on to them the medical justification letter from the doctor, or therapist
– the DME supplier then fills out a Prior Approval Application for Medicaid
– the document is then sent to the Medicaid State Office for approval or denial
– if your loved one is unsuccessful they will be notified as to the reasons why, and told how to appeal the decision
– if approved your loved one will receive the DME
How to find the HCBS programs, waivers and 1915 waivers in your state
Click on the link below will it take you to CMS.gov (CENTER FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES) to look at the different “HCBS programs”, “waivers” and “1915 waivers” offered by your state and Medicaid.
Once you select your state on the map, it will show you a section with your state waivers and programs, and also their criteria for eligibility- click here.
Step 1 – Find your state on the map.
Step 2 – Click on you state – I gave N.Dakota as an example
Step 3 – You will come to your state and it’s list of available resources, and here you can choose
- your state Medicaid Agency marked with a (1), or
- your Home and Community Based Services, Waivers and 1915 Waivers marked with a (2)
Below is an example of the type of page you will get if you click on the HCBS programs and waivers link.
You can find out what programs and waivers there are in your state, and what the criteria is for eligibility.
How to find your State Medicaid State Agency
Step 1 – Once you have clicked the link to Medicade.gov, look at the section I have outlined in the image below
Step 2 – select your state, and click on “GO” – it will take you to your State medicaid Agency.
Other funding your loved one can get for a bed alarm
Assistive Technology Programs
These programs are have been developed to increase access to assistive devices in the home.
The elderly were one of the primary groups for whom these programs were conceived.
Here “DME” and “Assistive Technology” are pretty much interchangeable as terms, so all manner of equipment which that helps in the home may be covered.
Select your state on the map or from the drop down menu and click on the button “Go to state”
– I chose Florida for this example
Look for the link “Program Title” – for my example I outlined it in red – and click on that.
The State AT Program website will come up, and you can sign up or use their contact info to get in touch and find out what they offer to help the elderly, and if you or a loved one are eligible.
State Financial Assistance Programs
To reduce the number of elderly persons entering into the Medicaid run nursing homes, non-Medicaid programs have been set up.
Designed to help the elderly to remain living independently in their own homes, these programs are run by individual states, and as such not all the states have one.
Eligibility differs with each program, but the programs are destined for the elderly and the disabled.
The work done by the programs includes modifying homes and purchasing any equipment necessary to the goal of helping the persons maintain their independence.
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