• Incontinence briefs, sometimes referred to as adult diapers, aren’t covered by original Medicare.
  • If you need help paying for these supplies, other programs can help.
  • If Medicare is covering your inpatient or skilled nursing stay, however, incontinence supplies should be part of your care.
  • If you’re receiving hospice care through Medicare, your incontinence supplies will be provided.
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As you age, your body systems can weaken or fail. Chronic diseases, the weakening of muscles, and other issues can all cause urinary incontinence in adults.

These issues tend to increase after age 40, and according to a 2018 study, 47.6 percent of people seeking geriatric care experience urinary incontinence.

Even though incontinence can be a challenge, original Medicare — the primary insurance payment for adults over age 65 — doesn’t cover adult incontinence briefs.

Keep reading to find out when and where to get help paying for these supplies.

As a general rule, original Medicare (parts A and B) covers only items that are medically necessary. Since incontinence management is considered to be a comfort measure, incontinence supplies like absorbent briefs aren’t covered under original Medicare parts A or B.

These incontinence supplies also include:

  • absorbent pads
  • wipes
  • personal cleaning agents
  • creams
  • ointments
  • catheters

If your doctor has ordered things like a urinary catheter for a permanent disability, however, Medicare may cover them. There are also some situations in which the Medicare home healthcare benefit may cover some incontinence supplies, but only if they’re ordered by your doctor.

Typically, original Medicare will cover inpatient costs or durable medical equipment at home. There are a few specific examples of when Medicare may cover incontinence briefs or supplies:

  • Medicare Part A would cover all your inpatient costs, including personal care supplies like briefs that you might use while you’re staying in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
  • If you’re receiving a Medicare home healthcare benefit, briefs may be covered if your doctor orders them to address a permanent medical condition.
  • If you’re receiving hospice care through Medicare, personal items like incontinence briefs will be supplied.
  • Medicare Part B will pay for a commode chair for you to use at home under the durable medical equipment benefit.

If you have only original Medicare, you’ll pay 100 percent — the full cost — of all the incontinence supplies, including briefs, that you use at home.

Some Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plans may cover incontinence supplies as an optional or added benefit. Check with your Medicare Advantage plan provider to find out whether your plan covers these supplies.

Since Medicare doesn’t cover incontinence briefs at home, you’ll have to pay all the costs for these products.

Depending on whether you have mild or severe incontinence, you can expect to use between two and six briefs each day. Additionally, you may need wet cleaning cloths, absorbent pads, or other supplies.

There are many ways to purchase incontinence briefs, such as:

  • at retail stores
  • using discount services
  • through medical suppliers
  • via subscription plans

Where and how you purchase briefs will factor into your cost, and bulk purchasing of off-label or store-brand products can save money as well. Incontinent briefs cost between $0.87 and $1.50 each, meaning that the annual costs if you use six briefs each day could range from about $1,900 to almost $3,300.

If you are dual eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, you may be able to get help from your state when it comes to paying for incontinence supplies. Incontinent supplies are optional for states to cover, but 45 states include incontinence briefs in their Medicaid coverage.

Use the Medicaid state overviews tool for more information about Medicaid eligibility, coverage, and enrollment in your state. You can also ask your doctor or medical team about national and local programs that may offer financial assistance for incontinence care.

If you know you need incontinence products in the coming year, you may want to consider changing your Medicare plan during one of the two open enrollment periods each year.

Below is an overview of what each Medicare part covers in term of incontinence care:

  • Part A. Only supplies used as part of inpatient hospital or skilled nursing facility care, some home healthcare, or hospice care are covered by Medicare Part A.
  • Part B. Medicare Part B covers outpatient medical expenses. Incontinence supplies aren’t considered medically necessary and aren’t covered.
  • Part C. Some Part C plans, also known as Medicare Advantage plans, cover incontinence supplies — either as an optional benefit or through reimbursement programs. Whether your plan includes coverage or reimbursement for incontinence briefs and other supplies depends on the plan and provider.
  • Part D. Medicare Part D is an optional prescription medication program and doesn’t cover incontinence supplies. It does, however, cover medications for incontinence-related conditions, such as anticholinergic medications.
  • Medigap. Also known as Medicare supplement insurance, Medigap plans help cover the out-of-pocket expenses leftover from your Medicare plan’s coverage — but this doesn’t apply to long-term care or personal care supplies and medications. Also keep in mind that Medigap policies can be used only by people with original Medicare (parts A and B), not Medicare Advantage (Part C).

Urinary incontinence happens when you aren’t able to control the flow of your urine. This can be caused by decreased muscle control, an overactive bladder, and other health conditions.

There are five main types of urinary incontinence:

  • Stress incontinence. Stress incontinence means urine leaks when pressure is put on your bladder, like when you cough, sneeze, or laugh.
  • Urge incontinence. Urge incontinence happens when you have a strong and sudden urge to urinate and are then unable to hold your urine. This may also come with the frequent urge to urinate, especially at night.
  • Overflow incontinence. You might have overflow incontinence when your bladder never fully empties, and you continue to leak or dribble urine even after you’ve gone to the bathroom.
  • Functional incontinence. If you have a physical or mental disability that prevents you from knowing that you have to urinate or that makes it physically impossible for you to get to a toilet, you may have functional incontinence.
  • Mixed incontinence. Mixed incontinence is the term used when you have more than one type of urinary incontinence.

Several medical conditions and other causes are associated with urinary incontinence. These conditions can either cause bladder problems that result in incontinence or make it difficult to get to the toilet independently.

Some of these conditions include:

  • urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • constipation
  • certain foods, drinks, or medications
  • pregnancy and childbirth
  • aging
  • menopause
  • hysterectomy
  • enlarged prostate
  • prostate cancer
  • obstruction
  • neurologic disorders
  • obesity

While incontinence briefs can’t help cure the conditions that cause urination problems, they can help you avoid leaks that may lead to embarrassment or even skin breakdown.

  • Original Medicare doesn’t cover incontinence briefs unless your doctor has ordered them as a permanent medical need while you’re at an inpatient facility or as a part of your necessary home healthcare.
  • Some Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans cover incontinence supplies.
  • There may be programs or agencies in your area that can help offset the cost of your incontinence supplies.