How to Get Help Paying for Walk-in Tubs
- Get the facts about Medicare and Medicaid coverage for walk-in tub installation. Learn how veterans and older adults can get help paying for walk-in tubs.
Roughly 80% of all injury-causing accidents that occur in bathrooms are slip and falls, according to a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly two-thirds of these accidents occurred in and around the tub or shower, and this finding points to how important safety equipment in these areas can be. Walk-in tubs can greatly reduce the risk of accidents in the bathroom, and older adults may qualify for assistance to make purchasing and installing one more affordable.
How Much Do Walk-in Tubs Cost?
The cost of a walk-in tub depends on its size and features. Basic walk-in tubs typically cost between $2,000 and $6,000, and those with air jets generally range in price from roughly $3,000 to $8,000. Bariatric tubs intended for people who weigh over 300 pounds typically have a higher starting price at around $4,000. Double tubs large enough for two adults to use simultaneously may cost as much as $20,000. Special add-on features can also increase the cost of walk-in tubs for seniors, including:
- Custom grab bars
- Textured anti-slip floors
- Door placement that allows for an outward rather than an inward swing
- Overhead showerheads
- Aromatherapy technology
- Heated backrests or floors
- Light therapy technology
- Foot massagers
In addition to purchasing the tub, you typically need to pay for installation. Prices vary based on the difficulty of the job and by geographic area. You can usually expect to pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 for installation. Some factors that determine the cost of installation include whether the following are necessary:
- Major modifications to drain pipes
- Replacing or relocating the water supply
- Installation of new drywall or tile
- New flooring or tile to fit the dimensions of the new tub
- Enlargements of the doorway to get the tub inside
Using other bathroom safety products in conjunction with your walk-in tub will result in additional costs. Some safety equipment that you may require include:
- Grab bars
- Nonslip mats, pads and strips
- Shower seats
- Handheld shower head
- Anti-scald shower head
Does Original Medicare Pay for Walk-in Tubs?
No, Original Medicare generally doesn't cover the cost of walk-in tubs. For coverage under the durable medical equipment provision of Medicare Part B, a walk-in tub would need to be deemed medically necessary. Medicare Part B doesn't have specific coverage guidelines for walk-in tubs and usually rejects claims, citing that the fixtures don't meet the definition of medically necessary.
However, occasionally people do succeed in securing coverage. If you wish to try to submit a claim, you will need to have a doctor that accepts Medicare write a letter explaining why a walk-in tub is medically necessary. You will also need to buy the tub from an approved durable medical equipment provider. Should Medicare make an exception and approve your claim, your plan will typically pay for 80% of the cost of purchasing a tub, and you would be responsible for the remaining 20%. It is unlikely that Medicare Part B will pay for bathroom remodeling and installation even for approved claims.
Does Medicare Advantage Pay for Walk-in Tubs?
Whether Medicare Advantage Plans or Medicare Part C will cover the cost of a walk-in tub and installation depends on the details of your plan. Generally, you are more likely to be able to get help paying for a tub if you have Medicare Advantage rather than Original Medicare, but not all plans include bathroom equipment and remodeling.
Generally, Medicare Advantage Plans may cover medical expenses related to:
- Preventing, treating or diagnosing a chronic condition, illness or injury
- Compensating for a weakness or injury
- Improving physical or psychological conditions for people with health issues
- Reducing the need for emergency care
It is up to various plans to determine whether walk-in tubs meet these criteria and qualify as medically necessary. If yours does, you will likely need a letter from a doctor that accepts your plan explaining why you need the tub. Usually, your plan will require you to pay for a portion of the costs for covered walk-in tubs. You may also need to satisfy your deductible to receive any assistance.
Does Medicaid Pay for Walk-in Tubs?
Whether Medicaid will pay for a walk-in tub depends on where you live and your reason for requiring the modification to your bathroom. Although the federal government provides funding for Medicaid, states establish their own rules and regulations. As a result, some states may pay for part of the cost of a medically necessary walk-in tub as durable medical equipment. Some state Medicaid programs also offer waiver programs that are potential sources for financial assistance. Usually, these programs give individuals who meet certain criteria an allowance that they can use to make home improvements that increase accessibility. Instead of paying for items and renovations directly, the waiver makes the money available to the Medicaid recipient to use as they see fit. Funds obtained through waiver programs can then be used to purchase and install a walk-in tub.
Nearly all states offer at least one Medicaid waiver program. For example, Colorado has an Elderly, Blind and Disabled Persons Waiver that can help pay for some costs associated with modifying a home so that older adults can age in place. You can consult the details of your state's Medicaid office for more information about general coverage and waiver options.
Will Veterans Benefits Pay for Walk-in Tubs?
Some veterans benefits may provide financial assistance for walk-in tubs. The two main health insurance plans available for veterans, TRICARE and CHAMPVA, generally don't consider walk-in tubs medically necessary and are unlikely to provide coverage. However, as a veteran you may qualify for the following:
- Specially Adapted Housing (SAH Grant) program may pay for modifications to make homes wheelchair-accessible for veterans injured in the line of duty.
- Special Home Adaptation (SHA) Grant program may pay for modifications to veterans' homes if they suffered a single or double leg amputation, blindness or other serious injuries in the line of duty.
- Veterans Directed Home and Community Based Services may provide a set amount of money that veterans can use to improve their homes to increase accessibility so that they can age in place. If you qualify for this program, you can use some of the improvement allowance to buy and install a walk-in tub.
- VA pensions like the Aid and Attendance and Housebound pension programs provide money for veterans to use as they see fit, meaning the funds could go toward the purchase and installation of a walk-in tub.
Are Walk-in Tubs Tax Deductible?
Yes, a walk-in tub installed in your own home may be tax deductible if a doctor verifies that it is medically necessary. In this case, you would claim a deduction under Medical and Dental Expense rules. Normally, the total medical expenses must exceed more than 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
Homeowners who can claim an older adult as a dependent may be able to claim the expenses under the Dependent Care Tax Credit. Each year, the IRS establishes a set deduction per dependent that is available for individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to a certain limit.
Because tax laws are complex, it is best to discuss the deductibility of walk-in tubs before you file your federal income taxes. If you do qualify to take the deduction, you can apply the tax savings toward the cost of purchasing and installing a new fixture.
Other Sources of Help for Paying for Walk-In Tubs
If you're not a veteran and don't qualify for assistance through Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage or Medicaid programs, you can still find ways to reduce the cost of adding a walk-in tub to your bathroom.
USDA Rural Repair and Rehabilitation Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers funding for individuals living in an area where the population is less than 10,000 and whose annual income is at least 50% below the median in their area. The purpose of the program is to provide money that older adults can use to make modifications to improve the safety of their homes, so they don't have to seek long-term care in a nursing home or assisted living facility. Like the waiver programs offered by Medicare and the grants available for vets, Rural Development gives a lump sum that you can use to cover any necessary modifications, including walk-in tubs. The program offers loans of up to $20,000 at a low-interest rate of 1% as well as grants of up to $7,500 that never require repayment. Qualified applicants can receive both a grant and a loan, allowing for up to $27,500 in aid.
State Department of Aging Assistance
Every state has a government agency that provides services and support for older adults. Each one develops and administers programs that seniors can take advantage of. More than half include at least one program that helps individuals pay for home renovations necessary for safety and accessibility. Usually, these programs provide a grant that lets recipients decide which improvements to make. If your state has one, you can likely use the proceeds to purchase and install a walk-in tub.
Local, state, regional and nationwide nonprofit organizations are potential sources of assistance. Some nonprofits may provide grants or other support for purchasing a tub. Others offer free or low-cost construction services. One example is the Safe at Home program through the nationwide organization Rebuilding Together, which will install walk-in tubs and other bathroom fixtures free of charge. If you qualify for this program, you will usually need to purchase the walk-in tub and other necessary materials on your own.
Some walk-in tub manufacturers will allow you to pay in installments over time. Some examples include:
- American Standard offers multiple financing programs, some with no interest for a set number of years or months.
- Kohler provides several financing options, including one that requires no payments for 18 months.
- Premier Care has financing programs available through GE Financing.
- Safe Step Tub gives you the option to apply for various payment plans and offers deals on installation.
Normally, you will need to provide your household income, driver's license or state ID number and Social Security number to apply for financing. The financing provider will usually run a credit report and then determine whether to approve your application based on your credit score, credit history and income.
You may occasionally see people selling used walk-in tubs on social media and in print classifieds. Purchasing a used fixture can be a good way to save money, provided that the tub is still in good condition. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for someone without the expertise to spot cracks and other signs of damage. As a result, you may wish to have the contractor you have chosen to install your new tub inspect any fixture before you buy secondhand.
Opting for a Roll-in Shower Instead
If you use a wheelchair, a roll-in shower may be a more economical option for your needs. A roll-in or low threshold shower has a low-profile entryway that allows you to push a wheelchair inside. Because roll-in showers fall under the category of wheelchair accessibility, they may be covered by Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans that won't pay for walk-in tubs.
In addition, roll-in showers can be purchased with a Home Improvements and Structural Alterations (HISA) Grant. This program offered by the VA is open to older veterans who need to make modifications to their homes to age in place. Unlike the other VA grant programs, you don't need to have a service-related injury to qualify. Unfortunately, the HISA grant isn't available for walk-in tubs.