There are a wide range of stairlifts on the market for those who have difficulties walking up and down stairs. The main problem is that many consumers become overwhelmed by all of the available options to choose from. This quick guide will provide more information about these devices so those who need to access other levels of their homes can do so safely.
Straight And Curved Stairlifts
This is one of the most popular and well-known stairlifts on the market today. As the name implies, it is a stairlift that is designed to fit a staircase that goes straight up and down. It is not designed to fit stairlifts that have curves or bends. It can fit any straight staircase regardless of how steep or narrow it is.
Curved stairlifts are best for staircases that do curve or bend at an angle. Rails are custom made, so a curved stairlift should be able to fit perfectly. However, this is one of the reasons why these types of stairlifts are more expensive than straight stairlifts.
If you are in need of a stairlift for mobility assistance but do not have the money available to purchase a new one, a reconditioned one may be the option for you. You should also purchase a reconditioned stairlift from a reputable company, and the company should offer a full warranty or guarantee for a limited amount of time.
Keep in mind that a reconditioned stairlift may not be a good option if it is uniquely designed or bespoke. Many stairlifts are one of a kind. The good news is that this type of stairlift can help you save some money.
There is also the option to rent a stairlift for your home. This is a good option if you only need the stairlift for a short term and you do not want or need to commit to a stairlift long term. Renting a stairlift is a very cost effective option because you have the opportunity to pay by the week or month. Once a person regains their mobility, the stair lift can be removed, and the home will be the same way it was before.
Narrow Stairlift Models
It is common for older 20th century homes to have a much narrower staircase than newer built models. This can create a problem for those who are mobility impaired to accessed upper levels of the home. These staircases also tend to be much steeper.
Homeowners would need to install a narrow stairlift model that has a folding mechanism. This mechanism will allow the stairlift to be folded out of the way when it is not in use. Those who need to access the staircase can, and it can be kept from obstructing the path of others.
Stairlifts are for those who have limited mobility, but need to access upper levels of their home. There are many different types on the market, and you can choose the one that is best suited for your needs or the needs of your loved one.
So you need to get a new wheelchair. Whose gonna pay for it?
The quality of your life depends on getting the best and most appropriate wheels for your needs. This is not an area where it makes sense to skimp. Wheelchairs are very expensive. A typical manual chair can cost about $2,000. A fully equipped power chair can reach prices in the range of $30,000, although they generally will be closer to $10,000.
Because you need the best chair and it costs a lot, you have little choice but to rely on outside payers. Your chair might be paid for by a small or large insurance company, managed care such as a health maintenance organization (HMO) or planned provider organization (PPO), a government agency such as Vocational Rehabilitation or the Veterans Administration (VA), or a government plan like Medicare from the federal government or Medicaid from state government.
Whether private or public, funders are all conscious of their budgets and have a lot of motivation to limit their costs. In the recent environment of political pressure to control health care costs, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get approval for your ideal wheels, although this depends on exactly who is paying.
This chapter looks at the need to advocate for yourself, what issues might arise with various insurers, and sources for alternative funding.
Advocate for yourself
You need to be serious about being your own advocate when buying a wheelchair. Read your policies and contracts. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or to make phone calls to find out what you need to know. Insurance companies and government agencies are bound under certain laws to give you information. It is indeed unfortunate that you should ever have to fight for what you are entitled to, but if it will make a difference in your health and quality of life, you should not hesitate to be persistent just be well informed and reasonable at the same time.
There is no reason you can’t question a policy that you consider inappropriate or unfair. The worst your funder can do is say no. But if you can make a good case, you just might be able to convince an insurer to reconsider. Dr. Michael Boninger, executive director of the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Pittsburgh, specifies chairs for people. He advises, “If your policy only allows you a $200 wheelchair, then challenge it. If you fight hard enough, you might get the insurer to make an exception.”
If you are unable to deal with funding problems, perhaps a family member, friend, case manager, or social worker would be willing to invest the effort to overcome resistance you might encounter from payers. Many local independent living centers offer advice or active assistance with funding issues.
While you will want to first exhaust all the normal avenues discussed throughout this chapter for overcoming a denial of funding, as a last resort you can take your case public. Local television or newspaper reporters might be interested in reporting about a funder who is denying coverage for clearly needed equipment. Funders don’t like negative publicity, so they might be persuaded to do the right thing. Even if you still don’t get funding, the report could flush out other forms of help such as a generous donor or someone with a used chair that meets your needs.
Funding agencies and organizations generally do not think proactively. They tend to resist paying for something now, even if it will prevent problems and save money later. For example, an insurer might not want to pay for a contoured back to help control the trunk of a rider’s body. Contoured backs can reach prices of up to $800, but their use can prevent the need for more expensive equipment or corrective surgery later on.
Jody Greenhalgh, O.T.R., is an occupational therapist with UCSF/Stanford Rehabilitation Services in Stanford, California. She is closely involved in specifying wheelchairs for people. More than once, she has encountered someone with pressure-sore problems who has had an expensive surgery. She finds that often these problems could have been avoided if the person had been provided with a better wheelchair and positioning system in the first place.
We see patients who have severe skin ulcers. They’ve been on bed rest for months. A specialized wheelchair is medically recommended but denied by the insurer. The patient then requires a $50,000 surgery, after which he returns to the inadequate wheelchair. This causes the surgery to fail and pressure sores recur. The patient has to go back on long-term bed rest and repeat hospitalization.
The insurance companies seem to be short-sighted, preferring to spend money on surgical intervention rather than paying for the right cushion and specialized wheelchair which would ultimately save dollars and help the patient return to a productive and independent life.
You might need to enlist the help of your physician, occupational or physio, or other medical professional. The initial wheelchair prescription typically includes a “certificate of medical necessity,” which is signed by the physician. If your funder denies the chair specified on your prescription, ask for help from your medical team. Your doctor or therapist can write to your funder,
explaining in detail why that particular chair is medically necessary for you. Greenhalgh is an experienced advocate:
“I will write a lengthier justification if a wheelchair prescription is denied. Sometimes I pull up old cases to use as examples and say, “Look, we saved money by doing this.” If I persevere it really does pay off, but the process can extend for months. It means I have to spend a lot of time on the phone and paperwork rather than treating patients.”
It makes sense that when you are shopping for insurance, it is crucial to ask specific questions and look for the parts of the policy that address durable medical equipment (DME). Select your coverage wisely.
Another way you can help yourself is to research a wide variety of manufacturers. For instance, smaller producers are very aware of the need to increase business by making their products a more attractive option to funding sources, so they try to offer good solutions at lower costs. If you can find a less expensive solution to your needs by doing this kind of research, it might reduce complications in dealing with your funding source, and make it easier for you to get approval.