Medical Equipment At Home

Much of the equipment found in the hospital is also available for home use. These items, called "durable medical equipment," include such things as hospital beds, walkers, commode chairs, and wheelchairs. They can either be rented or purchased. Medical Assistance, Medicare, private insurance companies, and other payment sources all have different payment guidelines for rental or purchase of these items.

People often wonder if they should rent or purchase a piece of equipment. The answer to this question depends on how long the equipment is needed. For example, if a walker is needed indefinitely, it may be more economical to purchase it rather than renting.

Usually, the company providing the equipment will demonstrate its use when they deliver it to you. If this does not happen, ask for a demonstration so you are sure you are using the equipment properly.


  1. A commode chair for a person who cannot walk up and down the steps to use the bathroom.

  2. A hospital bed enabling a person's head to be raised or lowered.

  3. A cane or walker for a person who has difficulty getting around (for instance, after surgery).

  4. Oxygen for a person who is short of breath following surgery or whose lungs have been affected by the illness.


  1. If you are in the hospital, your doctor, nurse, social worker, or discharge planner will recommend medical equipment at home if needed.

  2. If you are at home and need some equipment, check the Yellow Pages of your phone book under "Hospital Equipment and Supplies" or "Pharmacies." If you need assistance in ordering equipment, contact your doctor or nurse, or the social worker at your hospital or home-health agency.

  3. Medical equipment for home use is provided by two major sources -- medical equipment companies and pharmacies. Medical equipment companies have equipment for rent or sale.


  • It is always wise to consult with your doctor, nurse, physical or occupational therapist before renting or purchasing equipment. You can then be sure you are getting exactly what you need. In order to qualify for insurance reimbursement, your doctor must write a letter stating medical necessity. Check with the equipment company to see if it will obtain this letter or if you must do so.

  • If you are not sure whether your medical insurance will pay for the rental or purchase of equipment, ask the equipment provider to help you. If your insurance does not completely cover the cost, find out how much you will need to pay.

  • Check with several equipment companies to be sure you are getting the most reasonable price. Before you choose an equipment provider, ask if it will bill Medical Assistance, Medicare, the private insurance company, or other payment source directly.

  • If you find you have no source of payment and cannot afford to pay for the equipment you need, don't stop there. Some community agencies, such as fire departments, churches, home-health agencies, or your local American Cancer Society, provide free equipment. Talk with someone at the American Cancer Society, your local home-health agency, or your doctor, nurse, or social worker about your needs.

  • Oxygen may also be obtained from medical-equipment companies. As with other medical equipment, the various payment sources all have different financial guidelines. Medicare has specific criteria that must be met before it will pay for oxygen. Discuss this with your doctor or your local medical-equipment company.


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