Many people with MS find they may need to explore assistive devices/products and durable medical equipment (also called DME) to maintain independence. Assistive devices and DME help you do everyday activities while supporting independence and enhancing autonomy. These items are available to purchase, rent or borrow.
There are many different kinds of equipment, and they can be used in many different ways. A healthcare provider can advise you on what type of equipment will help you meet your goals. Providers such as occupational therapists, physical therapists, neurologists or primary care doctors assess the need, determine the appropriate equipment and write a prescription or letter of medical necessity. Ask your MS healthcare provider for a referral to one of these professionals. Our brochure, How to Choose the Mobility Device That Is Right for You, may also be helpful.
Once you’ve determined what you need, find a reliable vendor. Then, explore coverage of the items through health insurance (private, Medicare, Medicaid, VA, etc.), public funders such as state assistive technology programs or state departments of vocational rehabilitation, and private funders such as national nonprofits.
Find medical and assistive equipment vendors
The Find Doctors & Resources tool can help you find reputable vendors of DME and assistive devices. Look for vendors with staff who are certified complex rehab technology suppliers (CRTS) or assistive technology professionals credentialed by RESNA, the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America.
To conduct a search for resources in your area in the tool, select “Medical & Assistive Equipment” and the support subtype that fits your needs (“Assistive Technologies & Computer Resources,” “Equipment Loan & Rental” or “Medical Supplies, Wheelchairs & Scooters”). Then enter your zip code and the distance you’re willing to travel. If you’re not able to find a supplier nearby or you want more options, ask your healthcare provider for the names of reliable local vendors.
Things to consider when purchasing DME and assistive equipment
- Ask if the vendor participates in Medicare or Medicaid if you are a beneficiary.
- Try before you buy. See the equipment in person and test out how you feel with it. Insurers will often only pay for one particular piece of equipment in a lifetime.
- Anticipate future needs and purchase equipment that can be adapted or have features added later for your specific needs.
- Ask if the vendor you plan to purchase from will also service the equipment if it should break. Most insurers will pay for repairs to the equipment they sell.
Get assistive equipment covered
Discovering how to afford the equipment you need to live your best life with MS may take time and creativity, but it is well worth it. When you know what device or devices you need, explore coverage of the items through:
Medicare, Medicaid and most private insurance plans cover prescribed wheelchairs, ramps and lifts to some extent. These insurance tips will increase your chances of approval:
- Check insurance coverage and requirements such as a doctor’s prescription and pre-approval.
- If enrolled in Medicare, check if the item is covered. You can maximize your benefits by using a medical supplier (or “vendor”) who agrees to accept the Medicare-approved amount as payment in full.
- If enrolled in Medicaid, check coverage with your state Medicaid office or the NeedyMeds Medicaid locator.
- Organize the information required for reimbursement. This includes the nature and onset of your disability, employment history, household gross income and monthly expenses.
- Prepare a justification statement if required. Read about health insurance appeals and tell your healthcare professional to visit the Society’s website to view appeal letters templates.
- Check your vendor’s return policy and your insurance claims appeal process. Keep meticulous records. Save all letters and keep notes of phone conversations. If necessary, follow the appeals process, and complete all the steps on time. You should be able to deduct out-of-pocket costs for medical necessities from your federal taxes.
Find loaned and used assistive equipment
Used or secondhand equipment can cost half the original price. Many organizations also refurbish used equipment and loan it out on a short- or long-term basis.
To purchase used equipment:
- Start with a reputable medical equipment vendor or access the Medicare directory.
- View classified ads on online marketplaces. Check the AT3 Center to learn about equipment distribution programs and financial assistance in your state.
- Ask a medical equipment vendor to assess it for wear and tear, and have a PT or OT measure the equipment to be sure it fits you.
To borrow equipment:
- Your local Center for Independent Living is the best resource for loaners. The ILRU Directory of Centers for Independent Living will connect you. In the Find Doctors & Resources tool, it appears in both the Medical & Assistive Technology category and the Independent Living Centers category.
- Consult with your healthcare provider before accepting donated equipment to be sure it fulfills your needs.