Paying for Stair Lifts: Does Medicare Cover Stair Lifts?
- Learn about your financing options when paying for a stair lift, including whether Medicaid and Medicare cover stair lifts and how much installation costs.
Stair lifts are essential mobility aids for many people with disabilities. However, the high purchase and installation costs mean that many Americans can't afford to install a stair lift in their own homes, denying them access to the upper floors in their houses.
But does Medicare pay for stair lifts? And what other ways can someone pay for a stair lift? Below, you can find out whether Medicare covers stair lifts and information about other agencies that may be able to help.
Are Stair Lifts Covered by Medicare?
Medicare Part B covers some types of durable medical equipment (DME). It doesn't usually cover stair lifts, although some enrollees may be eligible for funding through home and community-based services. Medicare supplemental plans provide additional coverage for services and DME included in original Medicare Part B, so they're unlikely to cover stair lifts.
Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Stair Lifts?
Medicare Advantage Plans provide the same benefits as original Medicare, and you can purchase them through a Medicare-approved private provider. However, insurers can also offer extra benefits not available through Medicare. For example, Medicare Advantage Plans may include dental and hearing coverage and pay for additional services to improve your health and well-being. Medicare Advantage insurers are also allowed to tailor benefits packages to meet the specific needs of people with chronic conditions.
Whether you're eligible for assistance with the cost of a stair lift depends on your provider and plan terms. Many providers don't cover services and goods unless they're medically necessary. You may qualify for stair lift funding through your Medicare Advantage Plan if your doctor says it's necessary, but you'll need to contact your insurer to determine eligibility.
Does Medicaid Cover Stair Lifts?
What Medicaid covers varies widely between states, but there are certain mandatory benefits that all states must provide. Therefore, it's impossible to say whether Medicaid will cover a stair lift without checking the rules in your state. However, you're reasonably likely to qualify for a Medicaid-funded stair lift if you're a Medicaid enrollee with care needs significant enough to meet your state's eligibility criteria for institutional care.
States are permitted to set their own home and community-based services (HCBS) waivers for services to enable enrollees to live at home instead of receiving care in an institutional setting. These waivers provide enrollees more freedom to choose where they receive care and limit the number of people living in residential settings paid for by Medicaid. Medicaid is likely to consider paying for services if doing so is more cost-effective than providing residential care and meets the individual's health and welfare needs. Therefore, it's probable that Medicaid will agree to fund your stair lift through an HCBS waiver if it's necessary for you to remain at home.
You may also qualify for a Medicaid-funded stair lift through your state's Medicaid program. Most states cover DME, which may include stair lifts and other types of mobility equipment. Some states limit the amount or type of funding available, so you may need to cover some of the costs yourself and make a small copayment. Generally, state Medicaid plans will only cover basic models, and you may not be able to choose whether you rent or purchase the lift.
Stair Lifts for Veterans
Various resources are available for veterans who require a stair lift due to disability or advanced age. Many veterans are eligible for health benefits, including DME necessary for mobility, through the Veterans Association (VA). Therefore, it's likely that your VA health care plan will cover a stair lift if you have a service-related disability and can't climb the stairs unaided. The VA requires enrollees to complete a skills assessment before approving funding.
VA health care plans also cover any necessary repairs and maintenance required to keep your funded stair lift in good condition and may pay for a temporary replacement if it breaks down. Generally, the VA only funds the most basic model available to meet your needs and doesn't pay for deluxe products.
You may also be eligible for financial assistance if you have health needs due to advanced age or a disability unrelated to your military service. These benefits could help you meet the costs of purchasing and installing a stair lift. People receiving a VA pension who are bedbound, have limited vision or require assistance with activities of daily living are likely to be eligible for VA Aid and Attendance Benefits.
Alternatively, you may qualify for VA Housebound benefits if you receive a VA pension and spend most of your time at home because of a disability. You can't receive Aid and Attendance benefits and Housebound benefits simultaneously.
There are also grants available through the VA to help veterans with service-related disabilities adapt their homes to make them more accessible. These adaptations could include installing a stair lift. The grants are available to veterans with a qualifying disability, including the loss of more than one limb or the loss of use of a leg or foot. The Special Home Adaptation (SHA) and Specially Adapted Housing (SAH) grants are available for homeowners. Alternatively, you can apply for a Temporary Residence Adaptation grant if you're living in a home owned by a member of your family.
Local and State Home Modification Assistance
Various local, state and nationwide organizations provide financial assistance to low-income seniors who need home adaptations like stair lifts because of illness or disability. For example, the Area Agencies on Aging are responsible for providing assistance through the Older Americans Act funds.
Some charities also assist financially vulnerable seniors with the costs of home modifications, and there may be grants available through your town's department of community development. You can find resources in your area by entering your ZIP code on the Eldercare Locator website.
State Assistive Technology Programs
All states receive a grant through the State Grant for Assistive Technology Program to help make technological aids more accessible to people with disabilities of all ages. Each state has its own assistive technology program, and you can find yours through the AT3 Center's program directory. How funds are allocated and the assistance available varies by state. Still, it's worth checking to see if you're eligible for a loan or other financial support to purchase and install a stair lift.
Stair Lift Payment Options
If you don't qualify for financial support through Medicaid, Medicare or another relevant agency, there are still ways to make installing a stair lift more affordable. Many stair lift manufacturers offer financing plans that let you spread the cost of your stair lift over a more extended period.
A reverse mortgage could also be an option if you're older than 62 and hold a significant amount of equity in your home because it lets you borrow against your home's value. This option may be necessary if you need to make substantial, expensive modifications to your home in addition to installing a stair lift. However, reverse mortgages can be a costly way to borrow, so it's best to speak to a financial advisor to help you decide if it's the right choice for you.
Finally, any costs related to purchasing and installing your stair lift that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income could be tax-deductible as a Medical and Dental Expense. Assistive technologies like stair lifts are generally tax-deductible if you have a qualifying disability.
How Much Do Stair Lifts Cost?
The national average cost to install a stair lift is $6,000, with a typical range between $2,000 and $15,000. The total cost depends on which brand you choose and several other factors, including:
- Staircase type and length. It's generally more affordable to install a stair lift on a straight staircase than a curved staircase. The overall cost also depends on the staircase length
- Seat Type. There are various seat types available, including collapsible seats that fold up to save space when you don't need them and swivel seats that let you get up and down without turning. Stair lifts with angled seats are usually slightly more expensive and have a backward tilt to help people with significant mobility issues use them more safely
- Power source. Battery-powered stair lifts are generally cheaper to install than electric models because they don't require wiring, and they're usually more affordable to run. However, electric stair lifts are often cheaper and easier to maintain
- Special features. Models designed to accommodate heavier individuals or that come with features like footrests generally cost more than basic stair lifts
Stair Lift Installation Costs
Many stair lift manufacturers include installation costs in the overall price and contract a technician to install the stair lift in your home. Otherwise, you should expect to pay between $75 and $100 per hour to have the lift professionally installed, or between $1,000 and $5,000 in total. You may need to pay more if your stairs are particularly steep or you require additional electrical or structural work, such as rewiring.
Stair Lift Rental vs. Purchase
Renting a stair lift may be a more cost-effective option in certain circumstances. Companies usually charge between $300 and $500 per month to rent a stair lift, and you'll also need to pay to have it installed and removed. You should also expect to pay a returnable deposit between $500 and $1,000, and many rental companies require a minimum rental period of at least three months.
Generally, renting a stair lift is an option worth considering if you only need it temporarily, such as during recovery following major surgery. However, it's usually more cost-effective to purchase a stair lift if you need to use it long-term.
Cost to Buy a Preowned Stair Lift
Purchasing a preowned stair lift can be an excellent way to get the equipment you need for less. You can often find ex-rental or privately owned models for sale through professional refurbishers, and you'll usually pay between $500 and $1,500 less than you would for a brand new lift. However, you'll likely need to arrange and pay for installation yourself.
Preowned stair lifts are often suitable for straight staircases because it's easier to find the correct length for your house. However, it may be harder to find a suitable curved preowned stair lift because the tracks are usually made to order.
Is There an Alternative to a Stair Lift?
There are several more affordable alternatives to stair lifts to help people with mobility problems get up the stairs. However, they won't be suitable for people with significant mobility impairments. It's also worth considering installing additional lighting on your stairs to reduce the risk of slips and falls. Below are some options.
The cheapest option is to install handrails on both sides of the staircase to support yourself on both sides as you climb. The cost to install handrails depends on the length of your staircase, and you should expect to pay between $70 and $80 per linear foot for an aluminum rail.
Alternatively, you could consider installing a sliding handrail. Brands like StairSteady sell grab bars that slide up and down a rail installed where a regular banister would usually sit. The bar locks securely if you apply sudden pressure to it to help prevent falls. These handrails are generally more expensive to install than regular rails or banisters, but they're significantly more affordable than installing a stair lift.
Stair blocks are another option for people who can climb stairs but struggle to manage a regular stair height. The blocks sit on one side of the staircase and add an extra step between each stair, halving the distance you need to lift your foot. You could consider installing stair blocks alongside grab rails to reduce the risk of falls.
Installing a vertical lift in your home is significantly more expensive than installing a stair lift. However, it may be the most suitable option for wheelchair users who can't or don't wish to get in and out of their wheelchair to go upstairs.