Paying for Wheelchair Platform Lifts: What Are Your Options?

In this article...
  • Paying for wheelchair platform lifts can get complicated, especially since Medicare doesn't cover them. Find out what options you have to get these costs covered.

A wheelchair can provide so many benefits to someone who is experiencing temporary or permanent mobility challenges. But if you need a wheelchair to get around, what do you do when your home is only accessible by stairs or you live in a bilevel or multistory home? For many people, the answer is a wheelchair platform lift, which can be an expensive assistive device. Find out more about paying for wheelchair platform lifts before.

What Is a Wheelchair Platform Lift?

A wheelchair platform lift is a device that moves a wheelchair and the person in it vertically, typically to bypass stairs. Wheelchair platforms can be powered by electricity or hydraulic functions. Typically, they include controls that allow the person to operate the lift while on it. 

How Much Do Wheelchair Platform Lifts Cost?

Costs can range from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 or more. The cost of a wheelchair platform lift varies depending on factors that include:

  • The type of lift
  • Where it's being installed
  • Who is installing the lift
  • The shape of the stairs
  • How high the lift must reach
  • The addition of optional features

Wheelchair platform lifts come in two major types: vertical and inclined. Vertical lifts take the person and chair straight up. They're typically used to circumnavigate exterior porch steps or short landings within a home.

Inclined wheelchair platform lifts are more like chairlifts that might bring a person up and down a flight of stairs. Instead of a chair, the lift has a platform for a wheelchair. Typically, vertical lifts are cheaper than inclined lifts. 

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Does Insurance Cover Wheelchair Platform Lifts?

Most insurance companies only cover equipment that's considered medically necessary. Unfortunately, most don't consider wheelchair lifts to fall under that category, even though they do help people support independent living and mobility.

Does Medicare Cover Wheelchair Platform Lifts?

Original Medicare doesn't cover wheelchair platform lifts under Parts A or B.

Some Medicare Advantage plans — also known as Part C plans — cover items that aren't covered by Original Medicare. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, consult your benefits paperwork or call customer service for your plan to find out about potential coverage for wheelchair platform lifts. 

Does Medicaid Cover Wheelchair Platform Lifts?

Medicaid is administered by the states, and coverage can differ somewhat under each program. Some state Medicaid programs may cover at least some of the costs of platform lifts for wheelchairs under coverage provided for durable medical equipment. If coverage is an option under the Medicaid plan in your state, chances are that it will only help pay for the least expensive option and may not cover the full cost.

Does Commercial Insurance Cover Wheelchair Platform Lifts?

Every insurance plan is unique. Many follow suit after Medicare and don't provide coverage for wheelchair platform lifts. But it's always a good idea to check with your insurance company before you make a decision about a platform lift. Call your benefits or customer service line to find out if a wheelchair platform lift might be covered, under what circumstances, and how you should go about getting a covered lift if possible.

Tips for Paying for Wheelchair Platform Lifts

For many people, a few thousand dollars or more is a prohibitive expense. That can be especially true for older adults on limited retirement incomes, individuals who have experienced large medical expenses already or those who are dealing with a disability that limits their income. In these cases and many others, paying for a wheelchair platform lift 100% out of your own pocket may not be possible.

Luckily, there are a number of options you can consider to help you get a wheelchair platform lift installed in your home. 

1. Home Modification Assistance Programs

State and local governments and nonprofit organizations of all types offer home modifications assistance programs for seniors or those dealing with a condition that impacts long-term mobility or other functionality. Typically, these programs provide help paying for modifications to a home that enhance someone's ability to live independently and attend to activities of daily living.

A wheelchair platform lift does meet those requirements. These programs may have eligibility requirements that include but aren't limited to:

  • Limited or low incomes
  • Documentation of a medical need
  • Living within the program's coverage area

To find out about programs in your area, start with Area Agencies on Aging. You can find your local agency via the Eldercare Locator. These agencies may be able to provide information about assistance options in your area and even work with you to apply for those programs.

You can also search for home modification assistance programs in your state or check for options on state government websites.

2. Home Modification Assistance for Veterans

Veterans may be able to access specialty programs to help with modification of homes. Veterans who have injuries or illnesses that lead to disabilities and are service-connected may be eligible for housing grants that let them alter or improve a home to support independent living. The funds from those grants could be used for a wheelchair platform lift in many cases.

Grant options include:

  • Specially Adapted Housing grants, which are available to eligible vets who own (or will own) their home and have a service-connected disability that meets requirements.
  • Special Home Adaptation grants, which are available to eligible vets living long-term in a home that is owned (or will be owned) by a family member. You also have to have a qualifying service-connected disability. 

The money you obtain from these grants can be used up to six times over your lifetime. That means you could purchase a wheelchair platform lift and then use any remaining funds for future modifications.

The VA also provides Temporary Residence Adaptation grants. These can be used to modify a residence you're temporarily living in if it's owned by a family member. 

You can apply for these grants via the VA's eBenefits system. You can also apply by mail or visit a VA benefits office to get help completing the application in person.

3. Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services Waivers

While regular Medicaid plans don't always cover wheelchair platform lifts, you may be able to get help paying for one via a waiver program. 

Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) waivers are designed to let each state assist with some specific types of needs. These programs provide funds for supports and services that help people remain in their homes or communities when they might otherwise have to be in a setting such as a nursing home. In some cases, a wheelchair platform lift might be seen as supporting an individual's ability to remain independently or somewhat independently in their own home.

Who qualifies for coverage under these programs and what you can get assistance paying for varies by state. If you're interested in these programs, reach out to your state Medicaid office to find out more.

4. Using Equity in Your Home

If you have equity in your home, you may be able to use that to pay for the cost of a wheelchair platform lift. Here are some options to consider:

  • A home equity loan. You can borrow up to a certain amount of the equity in your home as a second mortgage. If you have enough equity, you can cover the entire cost of a wheelchair platform lift and then pay it off in monthly payments over time.
  • A home equity line of credit. This is similar to a home equity loan, but you get the money as a line of credit you can draw on. You're usually given checks or a debit card for this purpose. You can use the line of credit to pay for the wheelchair lift. As you pay the balance off, you can redraw on that line of credit as needed if you want.
  • A reverse mortgage. Seniors who own their homes may be able to take out a reverse mortgage to fund improvements or modifications to the property, including a wheelchair platform lift. You typically don't have to pay back a reverse mortgage until you move out of the home or sell the property.

5. Financing Through Lift Manufacturers or Retailers

The companies that make and sell wheelchair platform lifts realize that the cost of these items is typically outside of what people are able to pay immediately. Because of this, they often set up financing options. 

This works a lot like financing a car or other major purchase. The retailer provides you with a credit application and connects you with a lender willing to finance your purchase. You then make regular payments on the loan until you pay it off.

To qualify for this type of financing, you may need to meet credit requirements and demonstrate that you have a regular income of some kind. That helps the lender know that you're able to make the payments as agreed.

6. Using a Credit Card to Pay for the Lift

If you have a credit card with a large credit limit, you could always swipe to pay for a chair lift. Only do this if you have a reasonable plan for paying off the balance over time, though, as credit card debt can be fairly expensive.

This might be an attractive option for someone with a rewards credit card and a high credit limit. You could earn a decent cashback reward or a lot of miles or hotel points, for example. Just remember that a large purchase on your credit card brings up your credit utilization ratio, and that can bring down your credit score temporarily. Before you use a credit card to purchase a wheelchair platform lift, ensure it won't impact any financial decisions in your near future.

7. Getting a Personal Loan to Cover the Lift

If you have good credit, you could also apply for a personal loan at your bank or credit union. If you're considering financing a wheelchair platform lift, this is a good option to consider first, especially if you have a positive relationship with the lender. You may be able to get a better interest rate than that offered by retailer or manufacturer financing, but consider both options. Lower interest rates can reduce the overall cost of your wheelchair platform lift. 

8. Applying for Charitable Assistance or Grant Programs

Many local organizations set aside funds to provide assistance for people in the community. Local charities, churches and other organizations may be willing to help out with covering the costs of a wheelchair platform lift. Or they may have a program that provides services and includes options for installing a lift. In that case, you might have to pay for the hardware itself, but you save on the potentially substantial installation costs.

Paying for a wheelchair platform lift can seem daunting. But there are many programs and options to consider to make it more possible to get this supportive device in your home.