Medical Equipment and Supplies

What this article is about: This article provides a brief overview of obtaining medical equipment and supplies and links to resources where you can find more information and support.

If your child needs medical equipment or supplies, and you have no idea where to begin, fear not.  We have broken down the process for you in seven steps.

First, you need to know the term, “Durable Medical Equipment” (DME).  This is just another way of saying medical equipment that is meant to be used for a long time, usually 3 to 5 years. It includes:

  • Wheelchairs (manual and power).
  • Hospital-style beds.
  • Oxygen equipment.
  • Hearing aids.
  • AACs (augmentative communication devices)

Sometimes kids who need DME also need short-term use medical supplies.  Examples of short-term use supplies include:

  • Special formulas or food.
  • Feeding tubes
  • Syringes.
  • Diapers (for a child who is 5 years or older).

How to get equipment and supplies

  1. Call your child’s insurance companies and find out which DME providers (companies that sell DME) that they work with (ask which providers are “in network”).  Also ask parents of kids with disabilities who have the same insurance for recommendations on their favorite DME providers and what the process was like for obtaining equipment.
  2. Call your local Children’s hospital to see if they have a clinic that specializes in evaluating kids for equipment.  These clinics can make your life easier by combining many of these steps into one visit.
  3. Talk with the DME provider about your child’s specific needs. They will give you some insight on the requirements of your insurance plan and give tips on what kinds of equipment are likely to be covered.  For example, if your child is capable of walking but needs a wheelchair for safety and stamina, certain lightweight models might be most likely to be covered as compared to more expensive chairs better suited for non-ambulatory kids. The DME company can also help you to get prior authorization, or approval by the insurance company before you order the equipment.
  4. Ask your child’s therapist make a detailed report that clearly states what equipment or supplies your child needs.  There might be special measurements that need to be taken (e.g. for a wheelchair), or types of AAC device that is recommended.
  5. Your child’s doctor should use the therapist’s report to write a prescription and/or “letter of medical necessity” (LMN) that clearly describes what your child needs.  The doctor may also include information on your child’s medical history and diagnosis.
  6. Submit the prescription to the DME provider, who will then work with the insurance company.
  7. Once approval is obtained, the equipment will be delivered to the therapist’s office or your home.

This process can take up to six months, so be sure to have good contact numbers for the DME supplier so you can stay up to date on the process!

Resources

Complex Child Magazine: Adaptive Equipment

Autism Speaks: Safety Products

Navigate Life Texas: Supplies and Medical Equipment for Children with Disabilities

The UCP Elsie S. Bellows fund is a national program operated by UCP that provides grants for purchasing or repairing assistive-technology equipment for individuals with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities and their families who are in financial need and do not have other funding resources are eligible.