Will Medicare Pay for a Wheelchair-Accessible Van?

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  • Some Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans help cover transportation services, which may include handicap vans. Original Medicare (Parts A and B) only covers certain types of durable medical equipment and doesn’t typically cover wheelchair vans.
Woman in wheelchair leading group discussion

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover handicap vans or wheelchair-accessible vehicles, but some Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans may cover vehicle modifications, depending on the plan.

Original Medicare is administered by the federal government and covers over 60 million people. Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies. They’re required to cover the same benefits that Original Medicare offers, but many plans offer additional benefits that Original Medicare doesn’t cover. These additional benefits may include things like prescription drug coverage, dental care and – in some cases – modifications to a beneficiaries home or vehicle to help them live independently.

Some Medicare Advantage plans also provide transportation benefits, which may include handicap vans, depending on the plan.

Does Medicare Cover Wheelchairs?

Medicare covers wheelchairs and wheelchair lifts under the durable medical equipment (DME) classification. However, DME items must be designed for use in the home in order for Medicare to cover them. This means that handicap van purchases don’t count as DME that is covered by Medicare.

In some cases, Medicare will cover a power wheelchair or a scooter, but only if your doctor says it’s medically necessary. Medicare won’t cover a scooter if you only need to use it outside of your home.

Wheelchair lifts for staircases and beds may be covered by Medicare, however, as they are used inside the home and therefore categorized as durable medical equipment. Medicare may also cover chair lifts for use in your home if prescribed by your doctor.

Medicaid also does not cover the cost of a wheelchair-accessible van or vehicle. 

Some Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Home Modifications

Some Medicare Advantage plans may cover home modifications designed for aging in place. That can include the installation of wheelchair ramps, bathroom grab bars, traction strips for stairs and even the widening of hallways and doors. 

Some Medicare Advantage plans may also cover non-emergency transportation services, such as community transportation to a doctor’s office. These services may include coverage of handicap vans, depending on your plan and the transportation services it offers.

Medicare Advantage plans are sold by private insurance companies and are required by law to provide all of the same benefits as Original Medicare. As mentioned above, what distinguishes these plans is that they have broader limits of their coverage and typically offer some benefits not found under Original Medicare. Coverage of prescription drugs, dental, vision and hearing aids are some of the more common extra benefits found in these plans. 

It’s possible that a Medicare Advantage plan may extend its benefits to provide coverage for certain modifications to a vehicle as well, including wheelchair accessibility. Coverage may be restricted to those with severe disabilities requiring chronic hospitalizations. If you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, contact your plan directly to inquire about any coverage options. 

Other Ways to Pay for a Handicap Van

There are other ways you may be able to pay for a wheelchair-accessible van, even if you cannot secure coverage through Medicare. 

State Grants

State governments often offer programs to help with the purchase of a wheelchair-accessible van. Organizations such as the Department of Rehabilitation or ADRCs (Aging and Disability Resource Centers) allocate funds toward helping disabled persons obtain mobility equipment in many states. 

Charities and Non-Profits

There are numerous charities and non-profit organizations dedicated to helping people with certain disabilities. GuideStar is a robust database of nationwide charities and non-profit organizations that you can search to find possible transportation help.

Veterans Affair Programs

Military veterans may be eligible for assistance with the cost of a wheelchair van through the Department of Veterans Affairs. If you collect VA benefits, check with your insurer about your options. 

Churches and Religious Organizations

Some churches and religious organizations may offer grants or loans to assist with the purchase of wheelchair vans and other mobility equipment for disabled persons. Check with local organizations in your community for more information.