- Compression stockings come with different levels of pressure to help promote blood flow to the heart.
- Custom compression stockings can cost several hundred dollars.
- Original Medicare doesn’t usually cover compression stockings.
- Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional coverage.
Compression stockings can be a noninvasive way to reduce leg pain. They may also help prevent or treat some medical conditions, like venous stasis ulcers.
However, while compression stockings may have medical purposes, Medicare doesn’t typically cover them.
Keep reading to find out about exceptions when Medicare may pay for your compression stockings and how you can get help paying for them outside of Medicare.
Medicare usually doesn’t cover compression stockings or other items you can buy over the counter, such as gauze and bandages.
That’s not to say it doesn’t pay for medical equipment. But Medicare will reimburse you only for durable medical equipment (DME), like a wheelchair, walker, or hospital bed.
DME includes items that meet the following criteria:
- ordered by a doctor for use in your home
- durable, meaning it will usually last several years or could be reused by others
- medically necessary to help treat an illness, injury, or medical equipment.
While compression stockings fall under some of these categories, the one they don’t meet is the “durable” factor. This is because only you can use the stockings (you wouldn’t sell them or rent them after wearing them) and they’re used for only a limited amount of time.
Unfortunately, with Medicare Part B, the answer is usually no. This is true when you purchase compression stockings for preventive purposes, such as to prevent blood clots or swelling.
However, there is one notable exception: when you have a venous stasis ulcer in your leg. In this case, your doctor would need to write a prescription for the compression stockings.
A venous stasis ulcer occurs due to poor circulation in your legs. A wound care doctor may dress the wound and instruct you to apply a compression stocking over it.
Your doctor will usually write a prescription for a stocking that provides a specific amount of pressure. They can then file a claim for the stocking with Medicare, as an item needed for use with a surgical dressing.
What coverage does Medicare Advantage offer?
If you have a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, there’s a possibility your plan will cover compression stockings.
In 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) passed rules that allow Medicare Advantage plans to expand their covered benefits to “supplemental benefits.” Examples of these benefits could include:
Some Medicare Advantage companies are also offering a quarterly “over-the-counter” benefit. While these benefits vary by company, they often involve providing a certain amount of money you can use for over-the-counter health purchases.
Examples may include items you would commonly purchase at a pharmacy, such as:
- first aid supplies
Some Medicare Advantage companies may include compression stockings under this benefit.
If your Medicare Advantage company offers supplemental benefits, contact them to find out if they’ll cover compression stockings.
What about Medigap?
Medigap, also called Medicare supplement insurance, is a way to save money on your out-of-pocket costs with original Medicare.
However, Medigap covers only items and services that are Medicare-approved. This means Medigap coverage wouldn’t apply or extend to the cost of compression stockings.
The costs for compression stockings differ based on the type of stocking and fit. According to the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, the following are example costs for different types of compression stockings:
- Knee-high stocking, standard fit: $64
- Knee-high stocking, custom fit: $228
- Thigh-high stocking, standard fit: $87
- Thigh-high stocking, custom fit: $347
While these stockings can be expensive, they can play an important part in preventing medical conditions and reducing pain. This, in turn, may save you money in the long run.
If you need assistance paying for compression stockings, some options to consider include:
- Medicaid. Medicaid is a state and federal insurance program for those below a certain income level. Although benefits vary by state, some state Medicaid programs may cover compression stockings.
- Manufacturer’s rebates. You may be able to receive discounts from a manufacturer or store to purchase your compression stockings. You can ask whether they have need-based programs or even financing options for more expensive compression stockings.
- Nonprofit organizations. You may be able to secure financing help from nonprofit organizations specific to the condition you need them for. Examples could include the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, or other local nonprofits.
You can also talk with your doctor about any suggestions they may have regarding cost savings for purchasing compression stockings.
Compression stockings can be a noninvasive way to reduce lower leg swelling and blood pooling in the lower legs. These stockings are usually knee-high and exert a certain amount of pressure on your legs.
Compression stockings are essentially trying to help your leg veins and blood flow work against gravity. When veins are compressed, it’s easier to move blood upward back toward the heart.
There are many types of compression stockings for various needs, including:
- Antiembolism stockings. Antiembolism stockings help prevent blood clots when you aren’t able to get up and walk around, such as during recovery after surgery. These stockings provide different levels of compression, depending on your doctor’s recommendations.
- Graduated compression stockings. Graduated compression stockings exert the strongest pressure at the ankle and decrease in pressure as they go up your leg. They usually require a professional fitting to ensure they’re the appropriate pressure and fit. You usually purchase these at a medical supply store.
- Support stockings/hosiery. These compression stockings or socks provide the same level of pressure throughout the sock. You may wear them to enhance comfort, especially if your legs ache at the end of the day. You can purchase them online and at many drugstores.
When correctly worn, compression stockings have been shown to have benefits, according to a 2017 research review. These include:
- preventing venous leg ulcers
- promoting leg wound healing
- reducing chronic edema
- reducing leg pain
Manufacturers sell compression stockings at a variety of pressures.
According to the same 2017 review, even compression stockings at a low pressure of 10 to 20 mm Hg (low compression) can be effective. The authors recommend wearing the lowest effective pressure.
There are stockings ranging from 20 to 30 mm Hg (medium compression) to 30 mm Hg or higher (high compression).
- Medicare usually doesn’t cover compression stockings because they’re not considered DME.
- An exception for coverage is if you need wound treatment for venous stasis ulcers and your doctor writes a prescription for the stockings.
- You may be able to get help paying for compression stockings through Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, and other organizations.