Is Medicare Reimbursement the Same for All DME Suppliers? Unpacking the Facts

Angela Breslin, RN
July 2, 2024
min read

The Truth About Medicare Reimbursement for DME Suppliers

Does Medicare reimburse DME suppliers the same amount? In short, no, Medicare reimbursement isn't the same for all DME suppliers. Here's a quick breakdown of why:

  • Medicare-approved Amount: The amount Medicare is willing to pay for each type of DME.
  • Supplier Fees: Some suppliers accept Medicare’s approved amount as full payment, while others don't.
  • Assignment Acceptance: Suppliers who accept "assignment" can't charge more than the Medicare-approved amount plus your coinsurance and deductible. Non-assignment suppliers can charge any amount.

Medicare Part B covers Durable Medical Equipment (DME) essential for daily living, like crutches, wheelchairs, and hospital beds. Your out-of-pocket costs typically include a 20% coinsurance, plus any remaining Part B deductible. Importantly, your DME must be prescribed by a Medicare-enrolled doctor and obtained from a Medicare-approved supplier.

To get the full benefits and minimal hassle, choosing an enrolled supplier who accepts Medicare assignment is key.

Medicare Reimbursement Rules for DME Suppliers - does medicare reimburse dme suppliers the same amount infographic pillar-3-steps

Understanding Medicare Part B and DME

Medicare Part B covers Durable Medical Equipment (DME), which is essential for daily living. Think of items like crutches, wheelchairs, hospital beds, and oxygen equipment. To qualify for coverage, these items must be:

  • Durable: They should last at least three years.
  • Medically necessary: Prescribed by a Medicare-enrolled doctor for a specific medical condition.
  • Used at home: The equipment should be intended for use in your home.

What Counts as Durable Medical Equipment?

DME includes a range of items, all aimed at improving your quality of life at home. Here are some examples:

  • Crutches and Walkers: Help with mobility for those recovering from surgery or dealing with chronic conditions.
  • Wheelchairs: Provide essential mobility for those who can't walk.
  • Hospital Beds: Offer adjustable settings for better comfort and care at home.
  • Oxygen Equipment: Essential for those with respiratory issues like COPD.
  • CPAP Machines: Help individuals with sleep apnea breathe easier at night.

Why Medical Necessity Matters

For Medicare to cover your DME, it must be medically necessary. This means:

  • Doctor's Prescription: Your healthcare provider must prescribe the equipment, stating why it's essential for your condition.
  • Supporting Medical Records: Your medical records should back up the need for the equipment. For example, if you need a hospital bed, your records might show severe arthritis that makes it hard to use a regular bed.

Home Use Requirement

Medicare Part B covers DME intended for home use. This means:

  • Primary Residence: The equipment should be used in your primary residence. This could be a house, apartment, or even a long-term care facility, but not a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
  • Daily Living: The DME should assist you in daily activities and health management at home.

By understanding these basics, you can better navigate the complexities of Medicare Part B and ensure you get the DME you need. Next, we'll dive into whether Medicare reimburses DME suppliers the same amount and what factors influence these rates.

Does Medicare Reimburse DME Suppliers the Same Amount?

Medicare reimbursement for DME suppliers is not a one-size-fits-all scenario. Various factors influence the amount suppliers receive from Medicare. Let's unpack these factors to understand why reimbursement rates can differ.

Factors Influencing Reimbursement Rates

Medicare-Approved AmountThe Medicare-approved amount is the maximum fee that Medicare will reimburse for a DME item. This amount is predetermined and is often less than the actual cost charged by the supplier.

Fee SchedulesMedicare uses fee schedules to determine reimbursement rates. These schedules are based on historical supplier fees and services. For example, the DME fee schedules have been in place since the late 1980s and are updated annually. However, these schedules can vary for different types of equipment and services.

Supplier FeesDifferent suppliers may have different supplier fees based on their operational costs and the types of DME they offer. This means that even if two suppliers provide the same equipment, the amount they charge—and thus what Medicare reimburses—can differ.

Geographic LocationReimbursement rates can also vary by geographic location. Medicare adjusts its fee schedules based on regional cost variations. For instance, DME costs in urban areas might be higher than in rural areas, affecting the reimbursement rates.

Supplier TypeThe type of supplier also plays a role. Larger suppliers or those specializing in certain types of equipment might have different cost structures compared to smaller, more general suppliers.

Enrolled SuppliersOnly enrolled suppliers—those who meet strict Medicare standards and are approved by Medicare—can receive reimbursement. If a supplier is not enrolled, Medicare will not cover any claims they submit.

Impact of Medicare Assignment on Reimbursement

Accepts AssignmentWhen a supplier accepts assignment, they agree to accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment. This means they can only charge you the coinsurance and any unmet Part B deductible.

Excess ChargesSuppliers who do not accept assignment can impose excess charges, which are additional fees above the Medicare-approved amount. These suppliers are often referred to as non-participating providers.

Non-Participating ProvidersNon-participating providers do not accept Medicare assignment. As a result, they can charge more than the Medicare-approved amount, leading to higher out-of-pocket costs for you. It's crucial to verify if your supplier accepts assignment to avoid unexpected expenses.

By understanding these factors, you can better navigate the complexities of Medicare reimbursement for DME. This knowledge helps you make informed decisions and potentially reduce your out-of-pocket costs.

Next, we'll explore how reimbursement rates impact patient costs and compare the costs of renting vs. buying DME.

How Reimbursement Rates Affect Patient Costs

Comparing Costs: Renting vs. Buying DME

When it comes to durable medical equipment (DME), understanding your financial responsibilities is key. Let's break down how coinsurance, the Part B deductible, and other out-of-pocket expenses can vary depending on whether you rent or buy your equipment.

Coinsurance and Part B Deductible

Medicare Part B covers 80% of the Medicare-approved amount for DME after you meet your annual deductible. This means you are responsible for the remaining 20%—known as coinsurance. For instance, if the Medicare-approved amount for a walker is $100, you'll pay $20 after meeting your deductible.

Renting Equipment

Renting DME can be a flexible and cost-effective option, especially for short-term needs. Medicare often covers the rental cost for items like hospital beds and oxygen equipment. However, you still pay 20% of the rental fee each month.

Example Scenario:Imagine you need a hospital bed for three months. If the monthly rental fee is $150, your monthly out-of-pocket cost would be $30 (20% of $150). Over three months, you'd pay $90.

Buying Equipment

Buying DME might be more economical for long-term needs. Once you purchase the equipment, you own it, and there are no ongoing rental fees. However, the initial out-of-pocket cost could be higher due to the 20% coinsurance and the Part B deductible.

Example Scenario:Suppose you need a wheelchair that costs $500. After meeting your deductible, you'd pay $100 (20% of $500) upfront. But this is a one-time cost, unlike monthly rental fees.

Choice Flexibility

Medicare allows you to choose whether to rent or buy certain types of DME. This choice can significantly impact your overall expenses. For example, if you need a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, you can either rent it monthly or buy it outright.

Considerations:- Short-Term Use: Renting might be cheaper and more practical.- Long-Term Use: Buying could save money in the long run.

Out-of-Pocket Expenses

While Medicare helps cover DME costs, out-of-pocket expenses can add up. These include:- The 20% coinsurance- The Part B deductible- Any additional costs if your supplier does not accept Medicare assignment

By understanding these factors, you can make informed decisions about whether to rent or buy your DME, potentially reducing your out-of-pocket costs.

Next, we’ll discuss how ProMed DME can assist you in navigating the complexities of DME coverage and reimbursement.

Navigating DME Coverage and Reimbursement with ProMed DME

Navigating Medicare coverage for Durable Medical Equipment (DME) can be a challenge. ProMed DME is here to make it easier. Here’s how we help:

Free Shipping

One of the barriers to accessing DME is delivery costs. ProMed DME offers free shipping on all medical supplies. This means you can get your necessary equipment without worrying about extra fees.

Dedicated Nurse Support

Our team includes a Registered Nurse who is available to answer your questions. Whether you need help understanding your medical needs or navigating Medicare policies, our nurse provides personalized support and education.

Insurance Coordination

ProMed DME works directly with your insurance providers. We help you understand your coverage and handle the paperwork for you. This means you can focus on your health instead of dealing with insurance hassles.

Personalized Consultations

We offer free, personalized consultations to help you understand your DME options. Our insurance specialists will review your coverage and estimate any out-of-pocket costs. This way, you’ll know what to expect before you place an order.

Legendary Customer Service

Our customer service team is dedicated to making your experience smooth and stress-free. We assist you in every step, from understanding Medicare rules to ensuring timely delivery of your equipment.

By leveraging these services, ProMed DME ensures you receive the medical supplies you need with minimal hassle and cost. Next, we’ll answer some frequently asked questions about Medicare and DME.

Frequently Asked Questions about Medicare and DME

How to get reimbursed for DME from Medicare?

Getting reimbursed for Durable Medical Equipment (DME) from Medicare can seem complicated, but it's straightforward if you follow these steps:

  1. Ensure Eligibility: First, make sure the equipment is medically necessary and prescribed by your doctor.

  2. Use Medicare-Approved Suppliers: Medicare will only reimburse you if you purchase or rent DME from suppliers enrolled in Medicare. Verify this with your supplier beforehand.

  3. Meet the Part B Deductible: You must have met your Medicare Part B deductible for the year before Medicare starts covering the costs.

  4. Submit Claims Properly: If your supplier accepts assignment, they will handle the claim submission. If not, you may need to pay upfront and submit a claim to Medicare yourself. Use the CMS-1500 form for paper claims or opt for electronic submission through the Common Electronic Data Interchange (CEDI).

  5. Keep Documentation: Always keep a copy of your prescription, receipts, and any documentation related to your DME purchase or rental.

medicare dme claim form - does medicare reimburse dme suppliers the same amount

What is the type of charge between the Medicare-approved amount and the actual charge?

The difference between the Medicare-approved amount and the actual charge is known as excess charges. Here's a breakdown:

  • Medicare-Approved Amount: This is the maximum amount Medicare will pay for a service or equipment. For DME, Medicare typically covers 80% of this amount after you meet your Part B deductible.

  • Actual Charge: This is what the supplier charges for the DME. If your supplier accepts assignment, they agree to charge no more than the Medicare-approved amount. If they don't, they can charge you more, leading to excess charges.

For example, if the Medicare-approved amount for a wheelchair is $200, Medicare will pay $160, and you pay $40 (20%). If the supplier charges $250 and doesn't accept assignment, you may be responsible for the $50 excess charge in addition to your 20% coinsurance.

How does DME work with Medicare?

Understanding how DME works with Medicare involves several key points:

  • Medical Necessity: The DME must be deemed medically necessary by your doctor and used primarily in your home.

  • Coverage Types: Depending on the equipment, you may have the option to rent or buy. Medicare pays differently based on the type of DME and the supplier's policies.

  • Participating Suppliers: Always use suppliers that are enrolled in Medicare and accept assignment to minimize your costs. If not, you may face higher out-of-pocket expenses.

  • Prior Authorization: Some DME items require prior authorization to ensure they meet Medicare's coverage criteria. This step helps prevent unnecessary use and ensures you receive the appropriate equipment.

By knowing these basics, you can better navigate the process and ensure you get the DME you need with the least hassle and cost.


Navigating Medicare for durable medical equipment (DME) can feel overwhelming. But understanding the basics and working with a quality supplier can make a huge difference.

Medicare Enrollment

First, it's crucial to ensure you're enrolled in Medicare Part B. This is the part of Medicare that covers DME. Without it, you won't be eligible for any Medicare reimbursements for your medical equipment needs.

Quality DME Suppliers

Choosing the right DME supplier is essential. Always opt for Medicare-approved suppliers who accept assignment. This ensures they can bill Medicare directly, which reduces your out-of-pocket costs. At ProMed DME, we are committed to providing high-quality service and support. We handle all the paperwork and insurance coordination, making the process as smooth as possible for you.

Patient Education

Educating yourself about Medicare's rules and your responsibilities can save you time and money. Understanding terms like "coinsurance" and "deductible" helps you anticipate costs. Knowing whether to rent or buy equipment can also impact your expenses.

We recommend regularly consulting with your healthcare provider and DME supplier to stay informed about your options.

For more detailed information about our services and how we can assist you with your DME needs, visit our ProMed DME service page.

By being proactive and informed, you can ensure you get the necessary equipment with minimal hassle and maximum benefit.

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