Page Reviewed / Updated - May 2018
When considering paying for home care supplies, it is helpful to have a clear definition of what is and is not considered to be a home care supply. Supplies are generally, but not always disposable. If they are designed for repeat use, their usage is limited to a single individual (meaning it is not appropriate to share the item for hygienic reasons). While home care supplies are intended to serve a medical purpose, a prescription is not usually required to obtain them.
Home care supplies are also referred to as consumable medical supplies and should be distinguished from durable medical equipment which is always intended for repeat usage. As examples, home care supplies include items such as adult diapers, other incontinence and urological supplies, ostomy bags and accessories and diabetic test strips and lancets.
There is a great deal of variation in the monthly spending on home care supplies; this depends on the individual, the type of supplies and of course where they choose to make their purchases. Typical monthly spending on adult diapers and other incontinence supplies is between $100 - $275 / month. Diabetic supply spending varies with the type of diabetes; most seniors spend between $45 - $150 / month. Ostomy supply spending averages between $75 - $125 / month.
Medicare Supplemental Insurance and Medicare Advantage Plans are intended to help beneficiaries with Medicare deductibles and co-payments; they do not typically add new areas of coverage. For example, Medicare does not pay for adult diapers, therefore Advantage and Supplemental Plans do not either. However, because Medicare pays for 80% of diabetic and ostomy supplies, these plans will cover the remaining 20% for participants.
Medicaid has much more generous benefits than Medicare with regards to home care supplies. Prior to this discussion, it is helpful to distinguish between the two programs. Medicare is a federal health insurance program open to all Americans over 65. Medicaid is a state-specific program specifically intended for low income individuals who also have limited financial assets. Like Medicare, Medicaid will pay for ostomy and diabetic supplies, but unlike Medicare, Medicaid also pays for adult diapers and other incontinence supplies in most states. It is worth noting that Medicaid puts restrictions on which brands are covered and sometimes limits the maximum number of products / month. Again, this is state dependent and Medicaid program dependent.
The VA pays for home care supplies including incontinence supplies provided the items are medically necessary.
VA Pensions, specifically the Aid and Attendance (A&A) and Housebound pensions, do not pay for home care supplies directly, but indirectly the complete cost can be reimbursed. These pensions provide veterans with financial assistance up to a minimum monthly income level which is calculated by subtracting their actual income and any unreimbursed medical expenses. Under A&A and Housebound, home care supplies including incontinence supplies are considered unreimbursed medical expenses (UME). A veteran receiving either of these pensions would need to simply include the cost of these items on their application and the VA will reimburse them by increasing their pension benefit in an equal amount. Read more about VA Pensions.
PAPs are programs that pharmaceutical companies offer to individuals without insurance or without adequate prescription coverage in their insurance policies. Some home care supplies are covered by PAPs. One is much more likely to find assistance for diabetic supplies than they are for ostomy or incontinence supplies. The website, Needymeds.org offers a searchable database of PAPs and also lists programs specifically for diabetic supplies.
Discount drug cards were initially intended to help individuals who did not have insurance or were under-insured by reducing the purchase price of their prescription drugs. In recent years, the products on which card holders can receive discounts has greatly expanded and now includes over the counter medications and many types of home care supplies. Purchasers paying out-of-pocket for home care supplies should always present their card and ask for a discount on any types of home care product regardless of if a prescription is required.
For certain types of disposable home care supplies, there are coupons and free samples available. Seniors are especially likely to find discounts on diabetic and incontinence supplies. A list of coupons organized by company name is available here. Some common manufacturers of diabetic and incontinence supplies include: ACCU-CHEK, Astra Tech, ConvaTec, Depend, Dignity, Kendall, Prevail, Tena and Tranquility.
For those individuals, whose insurance does not pay the total cost of their home care supplies and for those supplies which are paid for out-of-pocket, there is good news in that the complete cost of home care supplies are tax deductible. There are two relevant tax credits and deductions that apply. Most commonly used is the tax deduction for medical and dental expenses. Less common but equally beneficial is the tax credit for elderly dependent care.
The unfortunate reality is that for most seniors, many home care supplies are paid for out-of-pocket. Fortunately, the need for home care supplies is very predictable. Both the type of item and the quantity can be determined well in advance of the need for the item. This makes shopping online a very good option for purchasing in bulk and discounts of 35% - 75% can be found over one's local pharmacy. Should one purchase online, we recommend DiscountMedicalSupplies.com with whom we have partnered. The organization is noted for their inexpensive pricing and excellent customer service.