Scooters For Seniors: Does Medicare Pay For My Scooter?

Scooters for SeniorsWhere did all the advertisements for scooters go?  New rules have made it harder and harder for Medicare to cover scooters for seniors.  It wasn’t so long ago that a prominent “scooter store” got itself in a pickle for pushing doctors to write prescriptions for Medicare furnished scooters (whether necessary or not).  Scrutiny surrounding The Scooter Store case has led to tighter restrictions on Medicare covered scooters, making eligibility for these scooters a complicated issue to wade through.

Here’s CBS News discussing The Scooter Store’s advertisements which targeted seniors all over the country:

Some members of Congress say the ads lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary spending by Medicare, which is only supposed to pay for scooters as a medical necessity when seniors are unable to use a cane, walker or regular wheelchair. According to congressional testimony, Medicare accounted for about 75 percent of The SCOOTER Store’s revenue. – CBS News

The Medicare spending issues surrounding scooters and other durable medical equipment (DME) led to tighter restrictions on where you can purchase scooters for seniors, who is eligible for Medicare reimbursement, and the steps you need to take in order to be in compliance with Medicare Part B (medical insurance) rules.  Let’s dig into the details…

Who is eligible for a Scooter covered by Medicare?

Medicare.gov says that all people who meet criteria with Medicare Part B are covered for scooters (which they define as “manual wheelchairs & power mobility devices”).

What steps do I need to take?

Keep these facts in mind as you consider the steps you need to take when considering a scooter for mobility;

  • Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers power-operated vehicles (scooters) and manual wheelchairs as durable medical equipment (DME) that your doctor prescribes for use in your home.
  • You must have a face-to-face examination and a written prescription from a doctor or other treating provider before Medicare helps pay for a power wheelchair.
  • Power wheelchairs are covered only when they’re medically necessary.

Where can I purchase a scooter?

You can purchase a scooter anywhere you wish if you’re paying out of pocket.  You can find them online (new and used) or you can visit your local DME supplier in town.  If you’re planning on some help from Medicare however, you need to visit an enrolled DME supplier that accepts the assignment cost from the federal government.  Here’s more:

Medicare will only cover your DME if your doctors and DME suppliers are enrolled in Medicare. Doctors and suppliers have to meet strict standards to enroll and stay enrolled in Medicare. If your doctors or suppliers aren’t enrolled, Medicare won’t pay the claims submitted by them. It’s also important to ask your suppliers if they participate in Medicare before you get DME. If suppliers are participating suppliers, they must accept assignment. If suppliers are enrolled in Medicare but aren’t “participating,” they may choose not to accept assignment. If suppliers don’t accept assignment, there’s no limit on the amount they can charge you. – Medicare.gov

How much will it cost me?

If your DME provider accepts the Medicare assignment costs, you’ll be paying 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, and then the Part B deductible applies. Medicare.gov says, “depending on the type of equipment, you may need to rent the equipment, you may need to buy the equipment, or you may be able to choose whether to rent or buy the equipment.”  After you’ve visited your (Medicare enrolled) doctor, and he/she has written you a prescription for a scooter, you can obtain details from a (Medicare enrolled) DME provider, and they can share options with you.  General prices for a decent (new) scooter will range from $750-$2,000.

The bottom line

Medicare is making it more difficult for folks who want help purchasing a scooter today.  One of our community members “Dennis” who owns Towson Medical Equipment Company has this to say about Medicare reimbursement for scooters; “Medicare rarely pays for senior scooters. We submit claims all the time and they always deny them. You will end up paying out of pocket for a senior scooter.”  So the best thing you can do today if you feel you’re eligible for Medicare assistance is to follow the new strict guidelines and work with a sanctioned DME provider in your local community.

If you have tips to share, or would like to comment on this issue (or other mobility issues) give us a shout in the comments below.  If you’re considering buying a scooter, make sure you read The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors.

FBI Raids The Scooter Store

150 Law Enforcement Agents Converge On The Scooter Store

150 law enforcement agents executed a search warrant on The Scooter Store earlier today.  Critics believe “government fraud” may be leveled as officials pull evidence from The Scooter Store headquarters in New Braunfels, Texas.  The Scooter Store is notorious for it’s advertisements claiming that; “We’re experts at getting you the power chair or scooter you need.  In fact if we qualify you for medicare reimbursement, and medicare denies your claim, we’ll give you your power chair or scooter… free.”

Ironically, The Scooter Store claims on it’s website that “In 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the company was selected as one of their legitimate quality suppliers to provide medical equipment and supplies to beneficiaries in Round One of the Medicare competitive bidding program at competitive bidding prices. The company subsequently announced that it accepted contracts to provide multiple products and related services in Round One bidding areas as a “contracted supplier”.”

I’m sure there will be a lot coming out over the next few weeks and months, so we’ll all have to take a wait and see attitude as this unfolds.  I’m going on the record with a prediction that Scooter Store sales of power chairs and scooters will decline over the course of the next few months, but they’ll bounce back one way or another.  The only question left to answer at this point is… What the heck are they going to do with all those free lighted magnifiers now???

Scooters for Seniors- What You Need To Know

Scooters for SeniorsThere is a lot of marketing material out there (online AND in radio/TV/print) telling us about scooters for seniors, and how easy it is to acquire one.  The fact is that scooters for seniors ARE easy to get your hands on… especially if you have $800-$2,900 to spend today!  Given that we’ve had great feedback on our posts entitled “Medical Alert Systems – The Top 10 Questions you Should Ask Before Buying” and our post entitled “Senior Friendly Cell Phones – What You Need To Know Today“, we thought we’d  come up with another Top 10 List… This one focused on “The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors“.

Remember, there’s a lot to get to know before purchasing a mobility scooter, and this should only be used as an initial list of questions to consider.  Scooters aren’t for everybody, and some of them can be downright dangerous (even the simplest to operate).   In a subsequent article, we’ll showcase many of the more popular scooter models available today, and the features/benefits of each.

The Top 10 Questions to Ask When Evaluating Scooters for Seniors

10.  Will the mobility scooter be used primarily indoors, outdoors or both?  There is a lot to this question, and understanding where the user needs mobility-assistance will determine many factors about the models to consider.  For example, a scooter for (primarily) indoor use doesn’t need to be as durable as many of the outdoor models.  Most of the indoor models can get away with 3 wheels (one leading and two trailing).  A single leading wheel makes the scooter easier to steer, and lighter too.  Outdoor scooters are usually heavier, more sturdy, have more “range” under the hood (ok in the box), and can be a bit more expensive.Scooters for Seniors

9.  Are you paying cash for the mobility scooter, or are you hoping Medicare will pick up the cost?  Many manufacturers and marketers tout that mobility scooters for seniors can be paid for by Medicare (if you qualify for Medicare).  There are stipulations to this strategy however.  In most cases, your physician will need to “prescribe” and/or recommend a mobility aid/scooter for you with appropriate documentations.

8.  Do you require a new model OR would a used (reconditioned) scooter do the job?  There are great discounts to be had on used and/or reconditioned mobility scooters.  A scan of “mobility scooters” in Craigs List showed over 20 scooters for sale in the Portland, Oregon area in the first 2 weeks of January alone!  Scooters are usually well maintained by their owner/operators, which makes buying a used scooter a wise choice if you’re spending your own money.

7.  Do you (or someone you know) have the means to transport your scooter if you intend on using it outside the home?  The larger grocery chains usually have mobility scooters available for people that need assistance, but some do not.  If you plan on taking your scooter with you, you need ample space in your vehicle (like a mini-van) AND someone to muscle it in and out for you.  Van lifts are obviously the best alternative, but you need to think about transport as it relates to using a scooter away from home.

6.  How much do you plan on spending on your mobility scooter?  For reasons mentioned above, there is a wide range in prices for mobility scooters for seniors.  Pricing for a new mobility scooter ranges from $750 on the low end up to $4,500 on the high end.  Features, durability, and quality raise the price points considerably.

5.  Have you found any ratings and reviews for mobility scooters?  Here at The Senior List we plan on showcasing many of the popular models, so that our users can provide feedback on senior-friendly-scooters.  Until then, you can check out Amazon.com on many popular models today.  You can also check with the manufacturers, or the sales outlet (but you might not be getting unbiased feedback.  Just keep that in mind.)

Scooters for Seniors4. Is the scooter comfortable to sit in?  Now this may seem obvious, but if you plan on purchasing online, make sure you find that model locally and take it for a spin.  Mobility Scooters are designed to be comfortable, but I can tell you from experience that people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes!  Leg room is a big consideration when evaluating the comfort of a mobility scooter.  Another consideration is that we all sit a bit differently!  My posture isn’t perfect so I may sit differently than the next person.  Test drive your mobility scooter… you’ll be glad you did.

3. What is the maximum load weight?  Load weight refers to all of the weight-bearing-stress being placed on (or in) the scooter and any one time.  Individuals that are overweight, or need to carry heavy objects with them need to understand and answer these questions when evaluating mobility options.

2.  What safety features and/or accessories come standard with my purchase?  You don’t want to spend $2,000 on a new scooter only to find out you need to purchase arm rests as accessories… (enough said).

1.  What kind of warranty comes with my purchase?  Make sure you understand the warranty inside and out.  Service can be expensive on mobility devices (not to mention a pain in the posterior).  Know your rights upfront.

Product Review: Pride Mobility Scooters

Very light weight scooter by Pride Mobility Scooters, The Go-Go Ultra X is part of the Go-Go line of “travel scooters” for their light weight AND quick disassembly (into manageable pieces).Pride Mobility Scooters

Product Info: The Pride Mobility GoGo Ultra X Scooter

  • Name:  Pride Mobility’s Go-Go Ultra X
  • Website Info:  http://www.pridemobility.com
  • Primary Use :  Indoors
  • Price:  $800
  • Weight Capacity:  260 lbs.
  • Max Speed:  4 mph
  • Range:  Up to 8 miles
  • Total Weight:  97 lbs.
  • Colors:  Red or Blue
  • Features:  Light weight, easy dissasembly, for indoor use and light errands,

Review: Pride Mobility GoGo Ultra X

Very light weight scooter by Pride Mobility.  There are 4 other Go-Go Scooters in this line-up as well as a “Go Chair”.  These Pride mobility scooters would probably be best suited for indoor use, and light errands.  It would NOT be considered a “rugged mobility scooter” by any means, but would work great around the house or other indoor environments.

The Pride Go-Go Ultra X comes in a 3 or 4 wheel varieties, and has any number of compatible accessories including:  A cup holder (nice eh?), cane holder, rear basket, oxygen holder, and rear view mirror (just to name a few).  Online reviews for the Go-Go Ultra X mobility scooter were found to be mostly positive.

Manufacturer’s warranty consists of a 5-year limited warranty on structural frame components, and a 2-year limited warranty on all electronic parts, 1-year limited warranty on the drivetrain, and 6-month warranty on the batteries (provided by battery manufacturer).  Yes confusing… I know (visit Pride Mobility for additional details).

The Bottom Line: GoGo Ultra X

A good option if you’re looking for an indoor scooter (for use at a super market, or occasional use in or around the home).  There are more rugged and/or sturdy models available but for the money the Go-Go Ultra X seems to fit a nice sweet spot in the market.

If you’ve used the Pride Go-Go Ultra X or know someone who has, please let us know your opinion in the comments section below