What is Durable Medical Equipment?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Durable medical equipment (DME) refers to a host of different medical devices or pieces of equipment that may be used for people receiving care outside of the hospital. These things are designed to be used more than once and for the duration of a person’s illness. They can be split into certain groups depending on type and could include inexpensive items that are easy to buy, items that need regular servicing, prosthetics, items with limited use periods, and oxygen and oxygen supplies.

Some forms of durable medical equipment are only needed for short periods of time. People might need crutches for a month or two, or a wheelchair for the same length of time. A health insurance company may or may not help cover the cost of this. Certain plans like Medicare must cover certain things associated with durable medical equipment, provided it is prescribed or recommended by a doctor and is obtained form an authorized medical supplier. Of course, in the short term, many pharmacies can rent people a pair of crutches for relatively low expense. Things become to pricier when equipment is needed for longer periods, or if the equipment is high maintenance and requires regular servicing.


Price of home care certainly increases if lots of durable medical equipment is required. This could include hospital beds, porta-toilets, oxygen supplies, and many more things. These are not provided for free, and people must rent them. Again a health plan may cover some of this cost, since it is still usually cheaper to cover home health care than care in care facilities. However, there is no guarantee a health plan will cover durable medical equipment unless it specifically states coverage, and sometimes coverage is limited to a percentage of the cost.

There is often distinction made between durable medical equipment and medical items intended to be replaced after single use. For instance, when people have diabetic testing equipment at home, some health companies cover the testing machine, but not the actual slips on which each test is performed. Other things that may not be considered durable include things like incontinence underwear, or tubing for urine catheterization or nebulizers.

People searching for durable medical equipment often need to know where to look for it. Most communities have several home medical suppliers. It’s important to check with each of these to determine if the supplier is approved by health insurance plans or costs to rent equipment may be higher. Sometimes DME also comes from hospitals. This may be true of certain prosthetics. Usually though, most people obtain their DME from a medical equipment store.


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