Mobility scooters are one of the best ways for seniors to stay independent despite physical and medical limitations. They don’t require you to have any ability to walk on your own or even push a wheelchair, yet you can still go about your day freely. Mobility scooters aren’t cheap, though - but, if you’re lucky, they might be free!
If you want a great mobility aid but don’t have the money to pay for it, read our guide on how to get a free mobility scooter. You’ll learn the different programs that pay for scooters, as well as the things you need to do to make sure you qualify.
What is a Mobility Scooter?
Mobility scooters are three or four-wheeled vehicles that persons with limited mobility use to stay active and independent. They are designed to be used indoors and out and can be ridden for several miles without the battery dying.
Mobility scooters are powered by batteries and require no physical effort to use. They are an ideal mobility aid for people with severe limitations who cannot use other devices, such as canes and walkers. As a result, many seniors use them almost daily when they are out of the house, running errands, and spending time outside.
How Much Does a Mobility Scooter Cost?
Mobility scooters can be purchased for anywhere between $600 and $4,000. The reason there’s such a wide range of price tags is that each scooter is built for a different purpose. Some are made for heavy-duty use and have a 500-pound weight capacity; others are more lightweight and intended for use at an assisted living facility.
Depending on what a mobility scooter is intended for, it will come with features that can make them pretty expensive. For instance, the Golden Technologies Patriot is made to be used all-day, on any terrain. It’ll cost you over $3,500. The Metro Compact is made for more casual uses such as shopping and travel near the home. As a result, it’s less than one-third of the price.
On average, a good, dependable mobility scooter will set you back around $1,000. Depending on your needs and wants, you may end up paying much more, but it’s safe to think of $1,000 as a “normal” price for a mobility scooter.
Mobility scooters aren’t the type of thing many people can afford to buy on a whim, if at all. Few people, seniors especially, can drop $1,200 on a scooter without seriously affecting their finances. That’s why many seniors look for ways to get their scooter partially or fully paid for!
Prove Your Need
If you want to get a free mobility scooter, the first step is proving that you actually need one. If you don’t have a medical need for a scooter, it will be practically impossible to get one without paying for it yourself.
Proving your need is a crucial step, but it’s as simple as a visit to the doctor. The doctor will assess your medical conditions and physical limitations to determine if a scooter is right for you.
They’ll be judging this based on the following criteria:
If your doctor can see that you meet those criteria, they will write you a prescription for a mobility chair. You might be thinking, “is it hard to get a doctor to sign off on a mobility chair?” The answer, unless you’re looking to get something you don’t need, is that doctors are happy to write prescriptions for your scooter!
The important thing to remember is that you need a doctor’s prescription to get a free mobility scooter, whether from a government program or another method. If you don’t truly need one, you may still qualify for other mobility aids, such as a cane or a walker.
Government Programs to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
If you’re enrolled in Medicare Part B, you may qualify to receive a mobility scooter. Medicare will pay 80% of the cost; you (or supplemental insurance) will be responsible for the rest. This means that if you’re approved for a mobility scooter that costs $1,450, Medicare Part B will put down $1,160.
The reason that Medicare covers mobility scooters is that they are considered a Durable Medical Device (DME).
These are devices considered medically necessary for the quality of life of certain seniors. Other examples of DME include walkers, canes, and wheelchairs.
So, Medicare will cover 80% of the cost of your mobility scooter, but what about that other 20%? If you’re in a lower-income household, that’s where Medicaid comes in. Medicaid will cover the entire cost of a medically-necessary scooter (or the remaining 20% leftover by Medicare, if you have both).
One last note: the mobility scooter you choose must come from a provider that participates in Medicare/Medicaid. Your doctor, also, must participate in Medicare. This information can be found by checking the Medicare website to find providers!
Social Security is a federal program, but many benefit decisions are made at the state level. This makes it hard to give blanket answers about how to get a free mobility chair. Each state has its own rules about who exactly qualifies, but there are two programs under the “Social Security” label that could provide you with a scooter:
Social Security Disability Insurance pays benefits to people who are “insured”, meaning they have worked and paid into social security long enough. Many seniors will automatically be considered “insured” because they/their spouse has worked and retired.
Supplemental Security Income pays benefits to adults and children with disabilities if their household income is under a certain limit and lack private/workplace insurance.
These are considered separate programs, but the medical coverage is the same. So, if you qualify for benefits through one of these two ways, you can get the entire cost of your mobility scooter covered. Remember that you’ll need a doctor’s prescription to get your chair covered.
Sometimes, applicants can be denied their application, due to medical or financial reasons. Fortunately, Social Security has an appeals process that allows people to make their case. If you’ve been denied coverage, you have the opportunity to receive a more thorough evaluation, where Social Security employees will look at your unique needs. This is a longer process, but can be worth it if you’ve exhausted your other options.
Getting a free mobility scooter through Social Security, while possible, usually takes the longest of any method. Social Security is an organization known for taking its time and is perpetually understaffed. If you think you can get a free scooter from another government program, it’s best to try that first!
Programs for Veterans
The US Department of Veterans Affairs will authorize the full payment of the cost of a mobility scooter for qualifying veterans. If you’re a vet, you can get a free scooter, but you’ll have to take the same steps for approval. First, get a written prescription from a doctor. After that, set up a visit to your local VA center. After a VA clinician verifies that you qualify, they will help you consider your options and choose the best one for your needs.
The process of getting a mobility scooter can take a few months. That amount of waiting can be difficult but ultimately worth it if you get an expensive scooter for free! After all, mobility scooters improve your quality of life drastically, so some patience and resolve will ultimately be rewarded!
Other Ways to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
If you have private insurance, either health insurance that you pay for yourself or that’s provided by your employer, you may be able to get a free mobility scooter. The problem with private insurance is that, unless you’ve got a world-class plan, your provider will try their best not to give you a free scooter. If they can save the money by denying you the scooter, they will! But, if you are approved, private insurance is usually faster and easier than Medicare or Social Security.
The best way to find out if your insurance will cover a mobility scooter is to read your policy and check for sections on “medical devices” or “mobility aids”. These sections will typically list the things that are/aren’t covered, as well as the conditions that need to be met. As always, you’ll need that prescription!
If you’re initially denied by your insurance provider, don’t give up! You can file an appeal, in which case the provided will review your application more closely. Many times, it comes down to a simple paperwork error made by you, the doctor, or someone at the insurance company!
Lastly, your insurance provider will likely have some requirements about the type of scooter you choose. Typically, one of those is that the chair must be able to last five years; this is similar to Medicare’s requirements for DME. So, it’s not just as simple as getting approval and selecting whatever you want- you’ll have to buy an approved mobility scooter to be covered! This may limit your options a bit, but oftentimes, this restriction helps prevent you from being scammed by a bad scooter manufacturer.
If you’re denied a mobility scooter through Medicare or private insurance but still cannot afford one, many charities are willing to help. Most of these charities have an application process that requires you to demonstrate your need, as well as proof that you’ve been denied a scooter already.
Here are three charities that you may be able to turn to for assistance:
- 1American Outreach Foundation: this nonprofit gives funds to veterans, low-income families, seniors, and single mothers to pay for mobility aids they can’t get otherwise.
- 2Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC): This charity provides free and low-cost mobility aids to people in need. They provide DME to people with temporary and permanent disabilities who cannot afford them; each year, they provide over nine million dollars worth of equipment and services.
- 3I Got Legs Gives Back Program: A small awareness-based charity that has a grant fund for people of all ages who have disabilities and can demonstrate financial need.
To be quite honest, finding a free mobility scooter through a charity or grant isn’t the best option and should only for people in dire need. There simply aren’t enough funds to go around for everyone to get their mobility scooter this way. So, this should only be considered if you are in great need and you have exhausted your other options.
If you’re unable to get a mobility scooter approved by Medicare or private insurance, you can pay for it out-of-pocket and claim that expense on your taxes. You can only claim this as an expense if you paid for it yourself and did not receive any sort of reimbursement for your purchase. This method isn’t exactly getting the chair for free, but you do end up getting your money back!
Lastly, if all else fails, several internet organizations will let you raise funds to cover the costs of your scooter. The most famous of these is GoFundMe, a site that millions have used to raise money for a wide range of causes. In the United States, where healthcare costs are too much for many people to handle, a GoFundMe for medical expenses is becoming more common. If you’re out of options, a crowd-sourcing campaign will allow benevolent strangers to donate towards the cost of your chair! It’s by no means a perfect option, but people have used it successfully many times in the past.
Conclusion: How to Get a Free Mobility Scooter
Getting a free mobility scooter is possible, but it isn’t always simple. You always need a doctor’s prescription, but, depending on the method you choose, there can be lots of paperwork involved. Medicare and private insurance are the best ways to get a free mobility scooter, but Social security and nonprofit grants are immensely helpful to those with financial constraints. Have you gotten a scooter for free before? Do you have any questions, or tips that have worked for you? Feel free to share them in the comments section below!