Being able to drive a car during your senior years can help you maintain your independence, but depending on your health, you might need to make certain modifications to your car. Today, many people with disabilities, injuries, and illnesses can stay behind the wheel by adding readily available adaptive equipment to their cars.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the most common types of adaptive equipment for vehicle modifications include the following:
- Hand controls
- Wheelchair seatbelts
- Devices for steering control
- Automatic door openers
- Wheelchair or scooter lifts or hoists
- Left side accelerators
- Remote ignition systems
- Power seat bases
- Dropped flooring
If your physician has suggested that you get adaptive equipment so you can make a vehicle modification to maintain your driving mobility, your Medicare insurance might help you cover some of the expenses involved.
Does Medicare cover adaptive equipment for vehicle modifications?
While Medicare doesn’t pay for the labor involved in a vehicle modification, it may cover a portion of your expenses for the adaptive equipment necessary for this modification under certain circumstances.
If your physician, who accepts Medicare assignment, prescribes and certifies that vehicle modifications are medically necessary to accommodate your disability or medical condition, Medicare Part B (medical insurance) may offer some coverage.
If the equipment you need is typically covered by Medicare’s durable medical equipment (DME) benefit, Medicare Part B pays for 80 percent of the final approved cost to rent or purchase the equipment from a medical supplier who accepts Medicare assignment. You must pay the remaining 20 percent of the cost after meeting your annual Medicare Part B deductible.
Medicare coverage of adaptive equipment for a vehicle modification is limited, so you should ask your health care provider if your specific modification is covered before you purchase it. The most common types of equipment that Medicare Part B covers include:
- Wheelchair lifts
- Wheelchair ramps
- Hand controls
- Special seating
If you have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan as an alternative to Original Medicare Parts A and B, your plan provider is required by law to cover, at minimum, all benefits included in Medicare Parts A and B. Depending on the type of Medicare Advantage plan you have, you may have additional coverage beyond the Part A and Part B benefits. You might also have to use medical equipment suppliers, health care providers, and medical facilities that are within your plan’s network of preferred providers to get coverage. If you aren’t sure what allowances and restrictions you have regarding this benefit, you should call your provider for details before making vehicle modifications.
How much does adaptive equipment for vehicle modifications cost without insurance?
While costs can vary depending on the type of equipment and modification, some changes are inexpensive. For example, adding a brake extender costs approximately $50. Some of the most common vehicle modifications and their average costs are:
- Pedal extenders for drivers who may be amputees cost between $50 and $200.
- A steering knob that boosts steering dexterity if you’ve lost a finger or an arm costs around $100.
- A manual ramp costs between $130 and $600.
- A left foot-adapted accelerator for someone who has partial paralysis or a missing limb costs between $150 and $300.
- A mobility vehicle lift helps the driver get a wheelchair or scooter into the vehicle and can cost between $1200 and $3000.
How much you pay out-of-pocket for adaptive equipment needed for a modification to your car depends on the type of equipment you need, where you purchase it, and the installation fees.