What is Durable Medical Equipment?

The term durable medical equipment means more than you think it does. When you first hear the term, you automatically think that durable medical equipment is any medical equipment that can withstand a lot of use. And that answer is partly true. But what type of medical equipment qualifies for this distinction? Isn’t most medical equipment durable? Yes, it is. But for insurance purposes, the term durable medical equipment applies to specific items. These items are important to know if you use Medicare or any other insurance that has durable medical equipment coverage.


Is My Medical Equipment Covered?

Medicare and other insurance companies define durable medical equipment as any medical equipment designed for long term use in the home. The equipment may be rented or purchased, and it must be used to treat an existing medical condition or for daily living purposes. This definition isn’t great because there are some situations in which items that are normally covered are in fact not covered.


The term durable medical equipment doesn’t include things like medication, bandages, splints, or athletic equipment. Even if you need the athletic equipment to strengthen your legs following a bad accident, it’s still not considered durable medical equipment. Here’s a list of some items that fall under the category of durable medical equipment:


  • Wheelchairs: Wheelchairs are considered to be durable medical equipment, but only if the wheelchair is an absolute necessity. Some people use wheelchairs, even if they can walk. For example, people who have bad knees or problems with swollen feet sometimes use wheelchairs for convenience. The wheelchairs help them get around, but technically they can walk without the wheelchair. In this case, the wheelchair wouldn’t be thought of as durable medical equipment.

  • Hospital Beds: Hospital beds are also considered to be durable medical equipment. However, like with the wheelchair, the hospital bed must be a necessity. If the person could easily sleep in a normal bed, then the hospital bed would not be covered as durable medical equipment.

  • Diabetes Supplies: Blood glucose monitors and blood glucose test strips are listed as durable medical equipment. The person must be a diagnosed diabetic. If the blood glucose monitor and testing strips are for use by a non-diabetic, then the equipment isn’t covered.

  • Iron Lungs and Oxygen Tents: These two items are also included under the durable medical equipment umbrella. And since no one uses them unless they really have to, you can be sure that these items will always be included in durable medical equipment coverage. However, you should ask your provider first just to be absolutely sure.

  • Crutches and Walkers: These items are normally considered to be durable medical equipment – as long as there’s a true medical need for their use.


If you’d like to know more about what Medicare does and doesn’t consider durable medical equipment, you can visit their website or give them a call. If you don’t have Medicare, you should check directly with your insurance provider. It’s important to know exactly what your insurance covers before you actually need it.

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