- Walk-in tubs reduce the need to step up or over a high edge when getting into your bathtub. This can potentially lower your risk of falling.
- Medicare usually doesn’t cover the costs of these tubs because they aren’t considered medically necessary equipment.
- However, there may be some ways to get coverage or other cost savings if you want a walk-in tub.
While Medicare covers some medical equipment — such as walkers, hospital beds, and wheelchairs — walk-in tubs don’t usually qualify for coverage.
Some aspects of walk-in tubs, like their specific installation requirements, make them a no-go for most forms of Medicare coverage.
However, in certain circumstances, you may be able to get at least partial reimbursement from your Medicare plan. There are also ways to get financial help from other organizations.
Here’s what you need to know if you or a loved one would benefit from a walk-in tub.
As a general rule, Medicare doesn’t cover walk-in bathtubs.
Medicare does cover some medical equipment and devices, known as durable medical equipment (DME). This is equipment meant for repeated use to manage a medical condition.
Examples of DME include:
- blood sugar monitors
- commode chairs
- hospital beds
- patient lifts
Medicare Part B is the portion of Medicare that covers DME. Part B typically provides medical coverage, such as for:
- doctor’s appointments
- emergency room visits
- other outpatient services
Currently, Medicare doesn’t consider a walk-in tub to be medically necessary equipment.
Plus, a walk-in tub differs from other covered DME because installation requires making major changes to your home. Most DME that Medicare covers can be purchased or rented, then returned for potential reuse.
For these reasons, Medicare doesn’t usually pay for costs associated with a walk-in tub, such as its purchase or installation.
The world of insurance and healthcare can be complicated — and Medicare is no exception.
Under limited circumstances, you or a loved one may be able to receive reimbursement or some assistance with payments for a walk-in tub.
We’ll explain these situations next.
Coverage under Part B
If you have original Medicare, made up of parts A and B, and are seeking coverage for a walk-in tub, you first need a doctor to write a prescription for the equipment.
The prescription needs very specific wording, including details about any diagnosed medical condition you have and specific ways the tub would improve your condition.
You also need to purchase the tub from a supplier that’s enrolled in Medicare. This supplier would have a specific participant number from Medicare, showing they accept Medicare assignment.
According to Medicare, you won’t get reimbursement for your claim if the supplier doesn’t have a Medicare number, even if the supplier is a large or well-known company.
With this prescription and a participating supplier, you may be able to purchase the walk-in tub, then submit the claim to Medicare for reimbursement.
There’s no guarantee that Medicare will pay any portion of the claim, but it’s likely your best chance at coverage with original Medicare.
Coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan
Medicare Advantage (Part C) is an alternative to original Medicare where you choose a private insurance company to provide your Medicare benefits.
Medicare Advantage companies can offer additional benefits that extend beyond traditional Medicare offerings. These may include:
- meal delivery
- transportation to medical appointments
- even home air filters for those with asthma
It’s possible that some Medicare Advantage plans may extend those benefits to include coverage for a walk-in tub.
Thousands of Medicare Advantage plans exist. They’re subject to regional, company, and Medicare rules.
So, it’s best to contact your Medicare Advantage company directly to ask about potential coverage or reimbursement. If you’re shopping around for plans, you can ask about this coverage in advance and request an answer in writing before purchasing a plan.
If your plan does cover a walk-in tub, it’s likely you would follow protocols similar to those of original Medicare: Your doctor would need to write a prescription for the tub, and you’d need to choose a supplier that accepts your plan and is in network.
Walk-in tubs can be costly. According to Consumer Affairs, walk-in tubs can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $20,000.
The average costs without hydrotherapy are estimated to be between $2,000 and $5,000. You must also pay for installation, which can range from $700 to $3,000.
While Medicare generally doesn’t cover a walk-in tub benefit, there are other ways to potentially make this option more affordable. These include:
- Medicaid. Medicaid provides insurance benefits to individuals who are at or below a certain income level. Specific Medicaid benefits vary from state to state, but some states may have assistance available for the purchase or installation of a walk-in tub. However, there are usually strict rules to follow, such as getting a doctor’s prescription and choosing a supplier that accepts Medicaid.
- Veterans Administration. Some programs for disabled veterans may help offset or reduce costs for a walk-in tub. These come in the form of grants and include a Home Improvement and Structural Alterations grant or a Specially Adapted Housing grant. You can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to learn more about these or other grants that may be available to you.
- Tax deductions or financing. While these options don’t pay for the costs of a walk-in tub, they can make getting one more affordable. Some manufacturers offer financing, so you can make a smaller monthly payment. If you use the tub for a specific medical condition, you may also be able to deduct the costs of the tub from your taxes.
You may want to talk with your doctor and ask if they’re aware of any programs in your community that may provide assistance for home modifications. This may include:
- caregiver organizations
- home accessibility programs
- programs that serve older adults
A walk-in tub is a modified bathtub that has a door that opens and allows you to walk straight into the tub instead of lifting your leg over a high edge. For those who have trouble with balance, stepping over the edge can result in a fall or injury.
Many walk-in tubs also have a modified seat where you can sit safely while bathing. They may also have safety features including:
- hydrotherapy jets
- anti-slip flooring
The biggest potential benefit of walk-in tubs is reducing the risk of falls. According to a
- In older adults, an estimated 7.8 percent of falls without injury and 17.3 percent of falls with injury occur in the bathroom.
- Older adults were 2.5 times more likely to fall in the bathroom than in a living room.
- The highest injury rates that brought older adults to the emergency department for treatment were from falls getting into or out of a tub or shower.
A walk-in tub doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t fall while bathing. Also, no studies have proven that walk-in tubs improve safety.
However, in theory, increased tub safety through interventions like walk-in tubs may help some individuals reduce their risk of falling and offer peace of mind to loved ones.
- Medicare doesn’t usually cover walk-in tubs.
- Expansions to Medicare Advantage coverage may mean some policies can reimburse you or provide coverage for these costs (although this is still rare).
- Other federal, state, and community organizations may offer grants to help you pay for a walk-in tub for your home.