Coffee & Coverage: Bathroom Grab Bars

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Bathroom safety is not something to take lightly. With diminishing vision, muscle weakness, and balance issues, older adults are especially vulnerable to injuries in the bathroom.

According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), one in four Americans aged 65 and older falls each year. Every 11 seconds, an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall. And every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall.

Grab bar benefits

Bathroom grab bars are safety devices designed to enable a person to maintain balance, lessen fatigue while standing, hold some of their weight while maneuvering or have something to grab onto in case of a slip or fall.

Unfortunately, seniors are also at risk for complications from these injuries. A simple fall can hinder an individual’s ability to continue living independently. A simple modification to your bathroom, such as grab bars, might prevent injuries from falling or slipping. 

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Medicare coverage

Medicare will not usually pay for grab bars, even if they’re a necessary bathroom safety device.

Part B covers Durable Medical Equipment (DME). This typically includes equipment that increases stability while walking, such as canes, walkers, and other support items.

“Medically necessary”

If covered and deemed “medically necessary,” the beneficiary pays 20 percent. 

Services or supplies that are considered “medically necessary” by your doctor or insurance provider are those that are needed to diagnose or treat your medical condition and that meet accepted standards of medical practice.

Costs 

The Part B deductible applies to all items. There are a few different ways that Medicare pays for DME, including renting or buying the equipment. In some situations, it’s up to the patient to purchase an item or rent it instead. The best way to plan your out-of-pocket costs is to contact the insurance company that handles your claims.

Hiring a professional ensures the proper installation of grab bars with minimal damage to delicate surfaces. A simple install where studs are ready for mounting can cost about $75 to $150, although a more complex job requiring additional support to the wall could cost more than $200.

Talk to your insurance provider

Veterans who are prescribed items to make their homes more secure may receive coverage from the Department of Veterans Affairs for shower chairs or grab bars.

Your doctor and suppliers must be participating providers. Otherwise, you could be responsible for all high out-of-pocket costs.

A Medigap plan may be a good option for extra insurance to help pay for your out-of-pocket expenses.

Other modifications to help prevent falls

  • Add a non-stick surface to your bathtub and shower.
  • Improve accessibility to the things you need daily, and make sure you do not have to reach too high for anything.
  • Remove any obstacles that impede your maneuverability.
  • Improve visibility, especially at night. Install a night light in the bathroom, and make sure that your medications are clearly labeled to avoid confusion.
  • Prevent burns by clearly labeling the hot and cold water faucets.
  • Consider changing your bathtub to a walk-in shower.
Cigna

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