1. Determine whether or not you will be making an insurance claim for the power wheelchair or scooter.
Power Mobility Equipment (power scooters and electric wheelchairs) are usually covered only once every five years by a person’s insurance provider. With that in mind, you really have to consider what you short- to long-term needs are. In our experience, a power wheelchair is more durable, has safer transfers, a much smaller turning radius, and are overall more flexible and viable for a variety of situations.
In addition: you have to keep in mind what your insurance provider (like Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, and Humana) will be willing to cover. Most insurance providers have specific criteria for determining if they will cover your power mobility device. These criteria fall under a general philosophy that your mobility vehicle must be able to assist with your daily living tasks, such as navigating to the kitchen or using the bathroom. Under this philosophy, two main criteria apply:
- In-home use criteria – your device must be suitable for use in your home;
- Safe transfer criteria – you must be able to safely get on and off your device.
Unfortunately, most scooters are unable to be bought via insurance because they rarely fit these criteria. They have larger wheelbases that make it harder for them to fit, or maneuver, in a home environment. Even the most portable of scooters have a too-high 41” turning radius. Larger scooters, such as those of the four-wheel variety, have an even longer 41” turning radius. This results in scooters usually failing the in-home use criteria.
To add to that, their lack of powered seats (wheelchairs have seats that can lift you up to assist with getting on and off) will usually cause them to fail the “safe transfer” criteria.
This doesn’t mean it is impossible —there are some scooters, in some home environments, which can be covered under insurance. If you are unsure, but are set on getting a scooter covered via insurance, just give us a call 1 (888) 877-1359 and we will answer any questions you might have regarding insurance.
If you don’t think insurance will be a problem for you, then read on to better understand which device would be right for you based on their pros and cons.
2. Evaluate the environment (in-home or out-of-home) in which you will be using your power scooter or electric wheelchair.
Power wheelchairs and power scooters each have certain traits that make them especially useful for either in-home usage or out-of-home usage. Understanding your needs, and the environment that your mobility vehicle will be in, is essential for choose a device that is right for you.
Inside your home:
Power wheelchairs are better for use inside your home because they can turn on a dime (usual turn radius is 19” – 21” compared to at least 41” for a scooter) and also pull up close to sinks and dining room tables based on the way the vehicle is structured. In the close quarters of a home environment, the mobility of an electric wheelchair is unparalleled by most scooters.
Outside your home:
It’s important to know that the spectrum with scooters is performance vs. flexibility. The higher-performance scooters will be best for outdoor travel, but at the sacrifice of transporting via car or at the sacrifice of in-home usage.
Portable scooters are best for traveling with your mobility device. Scooters (like the Pride Go-Go) can break down into four lightweight pieces that are easy to get in and out of your car trunk or backseat. This means that taking your power scooters to the grocery store, mall, or zoo is much easier and does not require custom-built transportation vans.
On the flipside, these portable scooters often lack power for all-terrain travel. If you want to go to your grandson’s soccer game, not every portable scooter is going to cut it. You could definitely purchase a more performance-oriented scooters (like the Pride Victory 9 or 10) but those will rarely ever be covered under insurance. You also have other models that are fantastic for outdoor usage because they have rear-wheel drive, but this makes the turning radius even larger.
It’s not totally cut and dried. If you have a larger house, or less furniture, a scooter may actually work very well in your home. Likewise, many electric wheelchairs can also be used out-of-home. If you think either a scooter or wheelchair could work for your environments, then the next thing to think about are your unique diagnoses/medical concerns.
3. Choose the device best for your unique medical diagnoses and limitations.
Keep in mind that your individual needs and the progression of your diagnosis affects which piece of equipment is best for you. If you are looking to have insurance coverage, they have criteria for scooters and power wheelchairs that become more specific as the power wheel chair becomes more complex. Your team of medical professionals including a Resna-certified ATP can explain all of the options and the reasoning of insurance coverage.
Power wheelchairs are much more versatile and can be customized and can grow with the patients changing needs. They offer a variety of seat and back cushions and seating options to prevent skin breakdown and promote increased sitting tolerance in the wheel chair. The range of seat features is essential for those people who have conditions that require extended time spent in a mobility vehicle.
If you are planning on purchasing your mobility device soon, work with a provider that has a RESNA-certified Assistive Technology Practitioner (ATP) on staff. RESNA ATPs are uniquely qualified to determine which drive train and seating options are most suitable for you.
If you simply need a device that will make getting around town a little easier, then a scooter may very well be the device for you…especially if you are paying out-of-pocket. Simple scooters are a fraction of the cost of more complex electric wheelchairs…and they look pretty cool too!
So, what is the best choice for you: Mobility Scooter or Powered Wheelchair?