If you’ve been told that you need to wear compression stockings, it’s important to understand how they work and the variety of uses they have for treating different medical conditions. In certain circumstances, Medicare recipients may have the cost of these stockings covered by their benefits.
What are Compression Stockings?
Although they may look like a normal sock at first glance, compression stockings serve a highly specialized purpose in health care. Because they surround the leg with constant pressure, they help keep blood flowing and can prevent clots from forming and help to decrease risks related to poor circulation in the lower limbs.
These stockings may be made from a blend of natural and synthetic fibers so that they can stretch and breathe around the skin without making you sweat or causing sores to develop. Stockings may be knee or thigh-high, or may be worn like tights that go all the way to the waist.
While many types of compression stockings can be purchased over the counter, your doctor may need to prescribe a special type that’s tailored for your measurements. Stockings that don’t fit well can cause circulation problems rather than improve them, so getting the right fit is extremely important. If the tops or bottoms of a stocking are too long, folding them over can cut off blood flow.
Common Uses for Compression Stockings
There can be multiple reasons to use compression stockings, but the most common include treating circulation issues that arise from diabetes or occur after surgery. They also benefit anyone who spends a majority of their time in bed or who may not be able to move their legs much. This may be temporary, as is the case for passengers and pilots on long flights, or it may be more permanent for people who have a debilitating medical condition.
Compression stockings are also commonly used to treat anyone with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or varicose veins due to the impact these conditions have on circulation and the risk for blood clots to travel to the heart and lungs. Anyone who works on their feet for several hours can also benefit from the improved circulation that compression stockings offer. Athletes also use them as a way to support muscle recovery after intense activity.
Medicare Coverage for Compression Stockings
Medicare Part B benefits often include items that fall under a durable medical equipment category. Because compression stockings may be medically necessary in some cases, they would meet part of the qualifications required for durable medical equipment status. Unfortunately, most standard compression stockings do not meet other requirements in order to qualify for coverage under this definition.
Some Medicare Advantage plans may offer extra benefits that include an allowance for over-the-counter medical supplies. Dual-eligibles who also receive Medicaid assistance may have prescription compression stockings covered under their regular benefits or by a provider’s allowance for over-the-counter items.
Because these extras can be different depending on which private insurer is contracted to provide the Medicare Advantage plan or Medicaid benefits, you will need to verify these coverage options with a representative for that insurer.
If Medicare recipients are prescribed compression stockings in order to treat open venous stasis ulcers, however, it’s possible that Medicare benefits under Part B will provide coverage because this is classified as wound care rather than durable medical equipment.