Medicare Rights is pleased to announce a partnership with the COPD Foundation, whose mission is to prevent and cure Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and to improve the lives of all people affected by COPD. The following question was sent to the Foundation’s popular “COPD Coach” and explains how Medicare covers mobility scooters.
For more information on this important issue, visit our Medicare Interactive article “What you need to do to get Medicare to pay for your power wheelchair or power scooter.”
Dear COPD Coach,
I have severe COPD and find it hard to walk for long distances. I saw an ad on television that says some company can get me a scooter paid by Medicare. The ad says if Medicare does not pay for it, it is free. This sounds a little too good to be true. What do you think?Questions About Scooters
The short answer to your question is that it is too good to be true! What these ads actually say is that if you are approved by Medicare and your claim is later denied, you pay nothing for the scooter. The reality is that Medicare does not pay for mobility scooters. Medicare will at times pay for a motorized wheel chair to allow you some degree of mobility in your own home, but in order to qualify your ability to walk must be severely compromised.
There is a big difference between a motorized wheelchair and a mobility scooter. Mobility scooters are designed for outdoor use, are generally lighter in weight, easier to transport and have longer battery life. The design of the mobility scooter allows it to operate over a variety of terrain. Motorized wheelchairs are primarily designed to operate indoors. They tend to be quite heavy. In order to use a motorized wheelchair indoors, your house must have wide enough doorways to get from room to room. Motorized wheelchairs are not really useful in two story houses. In order to get the wheelchair outside, ramps are usually required. Since they do not break down for transport, you must have a lift on the back of your car. The fact is, because of their design, many people cannot make use of a motorized wheel chair.
There are companies out there who put out ads similar to what you saw on TV. When you call they send a salesman to your home who will get you to sign a contract that in effect says if Medicare does not approve the claim you agree to be responsible for payment. Since Medicare will most likely deny the claim, you will end up being responsible for the payment. The payment plans in many cases involve very high interest payments, and in the end you will have paid far more for your scooter than if you had bought it from a local retailer. Before signing any contract with these companies, enlist the aid of a lawyer or competent legal authority to advise you of just what your obligations would be.
With that being said, mobility scooters can be a great asset if your mobility is significantly reduced. If you need to purchase one, and cannot afford to pay for it, investigate getting a bank loan rather than purchasing it with payment plans offered by the retailer. Generally banks and credit unions offer better interest rates. Before purchasing a scooter you need to look at a few important criteria:
- How will you transport the scooter? Mobility Scooters come in all shapes and sizes and very importantly, weights. Some disassemble for easy transport, while others require the use of a motorized lift on the rear of your car, or the use of a handicap van. The purchase of motorized lifts can be very expensive, and are not practical for all vehicles. Also, carrying the scooter on the back of the car exposes it to weather and road rash. There are some new scooters that are available that are very light and fold down easily to make them easy to transport. One such scooter is called the Travel Scoot, weighing around 35 pounds, and is actually approved to be transported by airlines. However, in order to keep its weight down, the scooter does not have reverse gear.
- What kind of range do you need? Generally, the larger the scooter, the longer the range. This is because the scooter has larger batteries. The smaller scooters, in order to make them more transportable, sacrifice range by using smaller lighter batteries.
- What weight is the scooter able to carry safely? Every scooter has weight limitations with what it is able to handle safely.
- How much are you able to pay? There are a number of inexpensive mobility scooters available on the internet. The problem is, these are imported, do not offer repair facilities and available replacement parts, and do not have a proven maintenance record. What this means is that while you may have saved some money, if the scooter breaks down, you might never be able to get it repaired. Before buying any mobility scooter make sure it is a reliable brand, can be repaired locally or by simple shipping and has a solid maintenance history. You do not want to end up with a “lemon”!
- Should you buy used? Used scooters are a viable option. If you decide to purchase a used unit, count on buying replacements batteries. Replacement batteries can be very expensive so check prices first. Also, make sure that the unit is still current and parts are still available. Do not purchase the scooter if it is not operating, has been exposed to the elements or has damage to the body (other than normal wear and tear. Make sure the seat is not torn and the tires are still good. It sounds like buying a used car, doesn’t it?
Lastly, with any scooter, make sure you take the time to learn how to operate it safely. It might be hard to believe, but there is a learning curve involved with the operation of any scooter, especially using the scooter out in public. This is even more important with the smaller scooters as they do not offer the same stability as the larger scooters!
Hope this helps!
The COPD Coach