If you would like to get back behind the wheel after a life changing event or illness but cannot drive your family vehicle, you may need a vehicle modification. People who have certain disabilities can regain their independence with adaptive equipment that modifies their vehicle for comfort and safety while driving.
With ever-improving technology providing more options for disabled drivers, every year the number of people using adaptive equipment in modified vehicles increases. The NHTSA reports that the ten most common types of adaptive equipment for vehicle modifications are:
• Hand controls
• Wheelchair securement
• Steering control devices
• Automatic door openers
• Wheelchair or scooter hoists
• Left foot accelerators
• Remote ignitions
• Power seat bases
• Dropped floors
If you feel you could drive more safely with an adaptive equipment modification in your vehicle, you may need to know more about getting coverage with your Medicare benefits, and how to become eligible for these modifications.
Medicare Coverage for Vehicle Modification
Medicare Part B may cover the cost of adaptive equipment for your vehicle modification if it meets the requirements under the category of durable medical equipment. You may have coverage for this if it is deemed medically necessary by your physician. The equipment must only be used for a medical reason by the person who is covered by the Medicare benefits paying for it. Your health care provider, who accepts Medicare assignment, must prescribe it.
In order to be eligible for the adaptive equipment, you must first undergo an evaluation that is given by a qualified, Medicare-accepted practitioner.
Medicare Part B will usually pay 80 percent of the Medicare-approved cost for durable medical equipment if you get it from a supplier that accepts Medicare assignment. You pay the remaining 20 percent of the final cost and are responsible for the Part B deductible of $185.00 (in 2019).
Evaluation for Eligibility
First and foremost, the purpose for the evaluation is to make certain that the adaptive equipment is medically necessary. The trained driver evaluator can help you find the right solution, and provide assessment and skills instruction for your driving needs with your new modifications.
Your evaluation consists of both a clinical assessment and a driving performance test. During the clinical assessment you are tested on your physical abilities, vision and perception, judgment and decision-making abilities, motor functions, coordination, muscle strength, and reaction time.
For the driving test the examiner will evaluate your behind-the-wheel performance using adaptive equipment. The results of these evaluations show whether you can drive, drive independently, or if you require more training or rehabilitation. The evaluator will determine what type of vehicle modification or adaptive equipment you may require to be able to drive independently and safely.
To take part in this sort of evaluation, you can get a referral from a health care provider such as your family physician, eye doctor, or occupational therapist.
Cost of Vehicle Modifications
Because there are so many different types and categories of adaptive equipment for vehicles, it is difficult to give an average price range. Simple equipment such as steering wheel knobs cost between $10.00 and $15.00 and you can attach them easily yourself. More technical equipment like hoists and lifts cost between $400 and over $1000, depending on the model. Equipment like this must be installed by a professional.
To be eligible for Medicare coverage of your vehicle modification, you must purchase equipment from a dealer that accepts Medicare assignment. You may require a prescription from your health care provider before meeting with the dealer to discuss your equipment needs. If the same dealer offers the services of a qualified driver rehabilitation specialist, you may not need to go elsewhere for this service.
If you are challenged by a disability but want to gain your independence again by being able to drive safely and comfortably, there may be a specific type of adaptive equipment that meets your transportation needs. You can get more information about what steps to take to get back on the road from your health care provider and Medicare services.