Will Medicare Pay for a Wheelchair Van?

Healthcare can be a confusing web to untangle when learning what insurance will or won’t cover from one year to the next, especially when it comes to mobility. When you turn to the web and search “Will Medicare cover wheelchair accessible van purchases?” you aren’t alone. 

Who is Covered by Medicare?

Medicare is a national health program in the United States that usually covers Americans over 65 years of age, but also covers some younger people with a disability – this latter group comprises 8 million of the more than 52 million people who use Medicare for their primary health insurance. Do you qualify? Find out here. If you are one of these 8 million people confused about what Medicare will cover for your personal mobility, read on to learn more about how this impacts your choices for wheelchair van purchases. 

Chrysler Pacifica wheelchair van driving down a road

Will Medicare Cover Vehicle Van Purchases?

Medicare is divided into four distinct parts with different functions. Part A (hospital, skilled nursing, and hospice services), Part B (outpatient services) and Part D (prescription drugs) aren’t categories that will cover the cost of purchasing a mobility vehicle. Parts A and B are referred to as Original Medicare, however, Part C is an alternative called Managed Medicare (or Medicare Advantage) which allows a patient to choose a health plan with a private health provider that can include coverage of A, B, and D and may allow you to qualify for assistance for transportation. Work with your provider to determine how much, if any, coverage they may provide for wheelchair accessible vehicles.

Does Medicare Pay for Everything?

No. Medicare is a valuable program that serves millions of Americans every year, but it will not cover every health expense and is often intended to be a foundation and not a full coverage option for most families. Through coinsurance, co-payments, and deductibles, Medicare will still have out-of-pocket costs that will add up.

Will Medicare Cover Power-Operated Vehicles?

Medicare categorizes scooters or power wheelchairs as power-operated vehicles. It’s important to make this distinction between personal mobility vehicles. These are not the same pieces of equipment. While Medicare will pay for power wheelchairs and scooters, Medicare will not cover personal mobility vehicles in most cases, even when provided with doctor prescription for durable medical equipment (DME) device

As of Sept. 1, 2018, Medicare requires prior authorization for certain kinds of power wheelchairs before the purchase is covered. If your physician prescribes one of these wheelchairs, your DME supplier will submit a request to Medicare on your behalf. You are not required to do anything additional, and your coverage and benefits will stay the same.

Does Medicare’s Medigap Coverage Include Coverage for an Accessible Vehicle?

Medigap is extra health insurance that you can purchase from a private healthcare provider to cover costs that are not covered by Original Medicare (Parts A and B) like co-payments and deductibles. However, Medigap doesn’t allow for additional policy coverage like dental or vision care, and most don’t cover prescription drugs. It’s important to know that only patients with Original Medicare can apply for Medigap, and patients with Medicare Advantage (Part C) are not eligible for Medigap plans.  

Authorize Someone to Manage Your Medicare Account on Your Behalf

Medicare programs allow you to fill out a “Medicare Authorization to Disclose Personal Health Information” form. This form allows Medicare to give your personal health information to someone other than you like a close friend, family member, or caregiver. You can find the form by visiting Medicare.gov/medicareonlineforms or by calling 1-800-MEDICARE. It’s often a good idea to do this sooner rather than later in case you are not able to in the future.

Protect Yourself Against Fraud

Medicare agents will never ask you to disclose payment information to sign up for new plans over the phone. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a Medicare agent and asking for your personal information, immediately disconnect.

Call 1-800-MEDICARE to report any plans or agents that:

  • Ask for your personal information over the phone or email
  • Call to enroll you in a plan
  • Use false information to mislead you

Are There Other Grants for Wheelchair Accessible Van Purchases?

BraunAbility maintains a list of grants for wheelchair accessible vehicle purchases that are nationwide, state-specific, or condition-specific. Search the listing here for grants that will pay for part or all of a wheelchair accessible vehicle.