Many older adults depend on durable medical equipment like oxygen machines, wheelchairs, and Hoyer lifts. If Medicare won’t cover the cost of new equipment, save money by getting what you need secondhand. To help you find used medical equipment in your area, our friends at The Dollar Stretcher share useful resources, tips, and personal stories from caregivers in their community.
– Question –
Looking for Used Medical Equipment
My husband’s doctor wants him to have a portable oxygen compensator. They are three to four thousand dollars. Is there anywhere that I can get a used one? I suspect that I’m not the only one looking for used home medical equipment.
– Answers –
Advice from a Former Medical Equipment Company Employee
I used to work for a medical equipment company that did mostly oxygen equipment. It sounds like you are looking for an oxygen concentrator. This unit runs off electric, pulling in the air from your room and sending it through a series of sieve beds to filter out the natural occurring gas in the air to provide “pure” oxygen to the patient.
Medical supply companies are going to try their best to get you to bill your insurance carrier for the oxygen (this is where they make their money). Medicare will rent out the unit for 36 months and then transfer the title to the patient and you would then own it. Private insurance company policies vary widely.
If you have insurance, check your policy closely. They may cover the cost. Our company did sell used units for $1500 with a one-year warranty to patients who had no insurance coverage and had a valid doctor’s prescription. New units can run $2500 to $5000, depending on the bells and whistles you want.
Look carefully at any unit you purchase from a private individual. Turn it on in their home. All the lights on front should work. An alarm should sound briefly when turned on and then a green light should appear. (If a red or yellow light stays on after startup, it needs service.)
Concentrators are favorite hiding places for cockroaches. They love the enclosed shell and the heat from the motor constantly running. Also please be aware that any unit you buy needs to have an analyzer put on it to check that it is putting out 95% or higher oxygen. Many medical supply companies have service departments that should be able to do this fairly quickly for a small fee on any unit you bring in. We charged a $40 service fee.
You are better off establishing a relationship with a reputable medical supply company that has a full service department. Even if you buy the unit privately, their service department should be able to assist you with the unit, filters, connectors, oxygen tubing and any other supplies you might need. (Request green colored tubing. It is easier to see when lying on carpet or flooring, so the patient is less likely to trip over the tubing.)
Is Your Husband a Veteran?
If your husband is a Veteran, try contacting your local Veteran’s Services Department (usually a County office). Our Veteran’s Services Department gets regular donations of used medical equipment from the families of deceased vets and usually passes it along to other veterans for free.
Check Out Craig’s List
You can find many used medical items on Craigslist.org. My disabled husband also had many items that were still in good repair following his passing away. I have placed them for sale using CraigsList and found buyers for them. If you are looking for something specific, place a wanted listing for it. Maybe someone has it in his/her basement and just never thought of selling it before.
Local Churches May Be Able to Help
You can usually find a local church that has a room or closet of donated medical equipment for use. Also check with the Red Cross as many local chapters rent equipment by the month.
— Wendy in Virginia
Speak with Your Local Pharmacist
The reader might want to check with their local family-owned pharmacy. Pharmacists are aware of the medical situations of those that come in for prescriptions and may know of medical equipment no longer being used.
Contact Medical Supply Companies
There are a lot of ways to look for the medical equipment you need! Contact several medical supply companies and ask what happens to their used, but still in good order, equipment. Medicare helps pay for this, but when the patient no longer needs it, they pick it up and take it back to the shop. Advertise in craigslist and put the word out. If your insurance won’t help bear the cost, then contact some of the social service agencies for help.
DailyCaring tip: Craiglist and other local listing sites are great places to find used products at rock-bottom prices. There are many trustworthy people on these sites, but it’s important to know that there are also people with bad intentions who use them to run scams or look for victims to harm or rob. Take precautions to stay safe, especially when meeting in person, and don’t invite strangers to your home.
Guest contributor: The Dollar Stretcher has been providing time and money saving information to readers since 1996. For more articles on Baby Boomers, caregiving, and retirement, check out this TDS article on Keeping Financial Records Safe as well as the TDS Baby Boomer library. And sign up for the TDS “After 50 Finances” newsletter too!
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