No coverage for home modification

06/03/2010 12:00 AM |

Dear Marci,

It’s hard for me to move around the house in my wheelchair, and I want to widen some of my doors. Will Medicare pay for this?


Dear John,

No. Medicare will not pay for modifications to your home, such as those improving wheelchair access, like installing ramps or widening doors. Also, Medicare will not cover items such as stairway elevators, grab bars and bathtub and toilet seats. These items improve your ability to function in the home, but Medicare does not view them as meeting a medical need.

Medicare will, however, cover durable medical equipment that primarily serves a medical purpose, is able to withstand repeated use and is appropriate for use in the home. DME includes items such as wheelchairs, oxygen equipment and hospital beds.

Dear Marci,

I’m taking a road trip across the United States this summer. Will Medicare cover me while I’m traveling?


Dear Rose,

If you have Original Medicare, you can travel anywhere in the U.S. and its territories (this includes all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands) and get the medical care you need from almost any doctor or hospital. If you have a Medicare private plan (such as a Medicare HMO or PPO), you will generally only be covered for care within your plan’s service area unless you need emergency or urgent care while out of that service area.

Medicare does not cover medical care you get outside the country, except in specific instances. However, some supplemental coverage policies (known as Medigap plans) and Medicare private plans offer coverage for emergency services in a foreign country. Call your plan to find out if you are covered while traveling outside of the United States.

Dear Marci,

I am the primary caregiver for my mother, but I will be out of town for a few days next month. Will Medicare pay for my mother’s care while I am away?


Dear Bernard,

Medicare will pay for respite care (a rest for caregivers) only if your loved one has a terminal illness and qualifies for the hospice benefit.

Under the Medicare hospice benefit, your loved one can get respite care in a Medicare-approved hospital or skilled nursing facility for up to five days at a time. Medicare will pay 95 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for respite care.

Marci’s Medicare Answers is a service of the Medicare Rights Center (, the nation’s largest independent source of information and assistance for people with Medicare.