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Ways to Save On Medically Related Equipment Not Covered by Insurance

by Jessica Graham

If you have a family member with a disability or a child with special needs, health care can be a constant concern and cost. Even if you have good medical insurance, some items like mobility vehicles and home modifications aren't covered. Many people believe that they either need to bear the full expense of an item or forgo it; thankfully, however, there are ways to save on necessities not covered by health insurance.

Consider DIY - Home modifications can be expensive. Before you call a professional, see if there are smaller projects that you can tackle yourself. Many home improvement stores also offer free clinics and workshops where you can learn the skills you need to tackle various home projects, like bathroom remodels. Also, there's a YouTube video for just about everything these days.

Once you've researched a project, if it still feels beyond your skill set, consider whether one of your family members or friends has the right expertise. When we wanted to install an extra light switch at my daughter's low height, we sought help from our neighbor, a retired electrical engineer. He walked my husband through the process and even came over to provide hands-on assistance when there was a snag in the process.

Rent Before You Purchase - Given that your need for durable medical equipment or safety aids may be long-term, your first inclination is often to buy these items; however, consider renting first. Renting allows you to try out several different options before you commit and is a much smaller outlay of cash at a time when your expenses may be rapidly adding up.

The other benefit to renting is that people's strength and abilities change, even when they have a lifelong condition. You may purchase a costly piece of equipment only to find out that it's no longer optimal or, in the case of children, that your child has outgrown it.

If you do rent, find out if any of your rental costs can be applied to purchases.

Think Used - A surprising number of people have medical equipment gathering dust in their homes. People are often reluctant to get rid of home health equipment like shower chairs and safety bars that they used after a surgery or that they purchased for an elderly relative, so they store it indefinitely. Before you buy, put out a call for needed items on Facebook, at church, or on local group websites.

Someone posted on our neighborhood website that he was looking for a kneeling scooter and another neighbor responded that they had one to loan. When you're hunting for used equipment, Craigslist and estate sales are other good places to look.

Shop Around for Mobility Vehicles - Mobility vehicles are expensive. We bought our wheelchair-equipped van several years ago, and I'm still reeling from sticker shock! But if that experience taught us anything, it is that it's necessary to shop around. Do you need a vehicle with a ramp or a lift? If you need a ramp, do you want side or rear entry? There are many factors to consider, not the least of which is determining whether you can modify your existing vehicle or whether you need a new (or new to you) car.

Related: How to Find Help Buying a Handicapped-Accessible Vehicle

If you're lucky enough to live near a city hosting an Abilities Expo, go. The Abilities Expo is a showcase for all kinds of different disability products and services. This means that you'll be able to see many different makes, models, and styles of mobility vehicles all under one roof. (Even if you're not looking for a mobility vehicle, the Abilities Expo offers all kinds of ideas for living with a disability. As a bonus, the handicapped parking is plentiful!)

Even if you can't make it to an Abilities Expo, you can still shop around. Check out the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association website to find a local mobility dealer and to find links for government funding and rebates. Some dealerships will offer a discount if you pay cash rather than financing the vehicle. Also, you should know that Costco recently started selling mobility vehicles, too.

Owning a mobility vehicle can also increase your insurance rates significantly, which is something else you want to keep in mind while comparative shopping.

Connect With Non-Profit Organizations - If there was ever a time to seek out non-profits, it's when you have a medical need. Many organizations offer emotional support, while others offer financial assistance or can connect you with local resources. Because there are so many organizations, it can be tricky sorting through all of the available options.

Start by doing a basic internet search. Search for organizations based on a medical need or current life circumstance. For example, search using the terms "ALS resources" or "home modification assistance for elderly or older adults." You also want to talk to doctors and other health care professionals about possible resources.

Finally, has a page that lists numerous organizations that can assist in making your home more accessible.

Reviewed October 2017

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