Bathroom safety devices like shower chairs are more than just convenient. They can prevent injury if you have mobility or balance issues and provide the support you need to keep you safe. In order to understand when shower chairs may or may not be eligible for coverage, you need to know how Medicare defines Durable Medical Equipment (DME).
Identifying Shower Chair Styles and Uses
Depending on a brand’s preference, shower chairs may be called shower seats, stools, or benches. They may also be called bath chairs, seats, stools or benches. Functionally speaking, they all serve the purpose of providing additional support for someone while in a bath or shower to prevent falls.
All models should be made of water-safe plastic or metal components and designed to minimize slippage on wet surfaces. Different styles are available to fit a variety of needs:
- Chairs with backrests. This style is favored for those who need back support while showering. These may be available with or without additional arm support.
- Chairs with arm support. Many people prefer shower chairs with arms because it provides a place to grip while standing and sitting. Chairs with arm support can also include backrests.
- Chairs with wheels. Shower chairs with wheels may be preferred by those who may have special mobility needs, but these chairs should be used with caution on wet surfaces.
- Chairs without backrests or arm support. This simplified option allows for easy repositioning while in the shower and is suitable for people who prefer a full range of motion.
Assess your needs when it comes to using a shower safely and securely, then talk with your doctor what style of shower chair may work best for you.
General Guidelines for Durable Medical Equipment
The meaning of Durable Medical Equipment (DME) is strictly defined by Medicare Part B coverage. In order to be eligible for coverage, the equipment needs to meet specific criteria. The device or item must be:
- Intended for use in your home
- Used for a specific medical reason
- Able to be used repeatedly
- Expected to last for at least three years
Additionally, Durable Medical Equipment must be prescribed by a doctor and both the doctor and supplier of the equipment must participate in Medicare and accept assignment. You may be responsible for copayments or coinsurance, and your Part B deductible will apply.
Medicare Coverage for Shower Chairs
Medicare Part B defines Durable Medical Equipment as devices or items that must be used to meet a specific medical necessity, but shower chairs are not generally covered. If you are staying in a hospital or Skilled Nursing Facility and you have access to a shower chair during your stay, your Medicare Part A coverage may help cover the costs of services and supplies you receive while you are formally admitted.
Many Medicare recipients choose to get their benefits through a Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. MA plans are required to provide at least the same Part A and Part B coverage as Original Medicare, but many MA plans include additional benefits at little to no extra cost. Certain Medicare Advantage plans may offer over-the-counter allowances that can cover some items, like a shower chair. Check with your individual plan to find out your exact costs for equipment that can help you stay safe in the shower.