Wheelchairs, walkers, and canes: What does medicare pay for, and who benefits?

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23 Scopus citations


Medicare's role in the distribution of mobility-related assistive technology has not been well documented, yet rapid growth and regional variation in spending, and concerns over "in-the-home" coverage criteria, highlight the need for facts. Using the 2001 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey, we find that 6.2 percent percent of beneficiaries obtained mobility assistive technology under the Medicare durable medical equipment (DME) benefit. These beneficiaries were disproportionately poor, disabled, and users of both acute and postacute services. Average per item spending ranged from $52 for canes to $6,208 for power wheelchairs. Among beneficiaries who acquired such technology through the DME benefit, these devices comprised just 2 percent of overall Medicare spending.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1140-1149
Number of pages10
JournalHealth Affairs
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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