Medicare tells beneficiary to get a life

Monday, January 31, 2005

SYRACUSE, N.Y. - Medicare pays for a lot of medical equipment, but if you think the entitlement program will pony up for an air conditioner, think again.

A woman recently submitted the following scenario to James T. Mulder, who writes the Healthcare Notebook column for the Syracuse Post-Standard:

My husband has a difficult time breathing in hot, humid weather. His doctor told him to get air conditioning in his home and wrote a prescription for it. My husband took the prescription to the Medicare office and they laughed at him, telling him that air conditioning is a luxury. Seems to me being able to breathe is a necessity. What’s your take on this?

Mulder’s response:

Medicare will pay for canes, walkers, hospital beds, respirators and other devices, known as “durable medical equipment.” Air conditioners are not covered by Medicare, even though they are very useful to people with certain heart and respiratory illnesses. In order to be covered by Medicare, the primary purpose of the device must be medical. Because air conditioners are not designed as medical equipment, Medicare will not pay for them.