What is Home Medical Equipment?

July 14th, 2011 by @lamberts

Homecare Advocate Blog: What is HME?Home Medical Equipment (HME) is medical equipment used in the home to assist people who are sick, injured, or disabled. Also known as Durable Medical Equipment (DME), the equipment is durable in nature, allowing for repeated use, such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, and oxygen therapy.  However, people often think of HME as more than just the equipment.  Specialty stores that sell HME also offer supplies, which is a very broad category covering everything from wound care to ramps to even daily living aides like a pill cutter.  Ultimately, HME’s scope is far wider than the equipment and supplies provided; HME is a highly service-oriented industry that is focused on patient-care after the transaction is made.


Here is a partial list of traditional HME and Supplies:

  • Oxygen Therapy
  • Wheelchairs & Power Mobility Devices
  • Hospital Beds & Mattresses
  • Seat Lift Chairs
  • Ramps
  • CPAP/BiPAP Machines
  • Crutches
  • Canes & Walkers
  • Incontinence Products
  • Woundcare Products
  • Bathroom Safety Items
  • Nebulizers
  • Diabetic Equipment
  • Orthopedics
  • Aids to Daily Living
  • Support Hose
  • Trapeze Bars & Hoyer Lifts
  • Enteral Nutrition


Typically, your physician will prescribe HME after evaluating your needs.  For certain items like Oxygen Therapy, you must have a valid prescription to receive it.  Others, like ramps and support hose, do not require a prescription to receive the item.  And, regardless of whether or not you have a prescription, different insurances will cover or not cover certain items.  Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance companies each have their own set of criteria that must be met before they will pay for a covered item.  There is often a co-pay for the medical equipment, even if the insurance does cover it.  Sometimes a co-insurance may pick up the remaining balance; other times the patient pays this amount out of pocket.


Your local HME supplier is a great resource to obtain medical equipment and supplies.  Unlike big-box retailers, these companies specialize in HME, and their professional staff will demonstrate how to use the equipment and make sure you are comfortable using it.  They can coordinate with your physician or hospital discharge planner to be sure you get what you need and bill your insurance accordingly.  The HME supplier also offers deliveries, on-call services, and routine maintenance on several HME items.  This kind of interaction between patients and suppliers foster long-term relationships as they build a rapport around trust, security, and knowing that the supplier will be there for them.


Medicare has begun phasing in an auction program throughout the US that have severely restricted patient choice for where to get their HME, lessened the quality and selection of HME available, and caused access issues for patients obtaining their needed medical equipment and services in a timely fashion.  With this program, 90% of suppliers are forced out of the Medicare program, and the Medicare beneficiaries are limited to a few, often out-of-state suppliers to take care of their needs.

The bid program was such a failure in 2009 when the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first implemented it that Congress intervened and halted the program, demanding that its numerous problems be fixed.  Two years later, they haven’t.  It is now spreading like a deadly disease across the US, harming Medicare beneficiaries and destroying suppliers who take care of them.

Dozens of patient advocacy groups, including the MDA, the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, and more are outraged at the detrimental effects this program has on the elderly people it jeopardizes.  Hundreds of leading economists, including distinguished Nobel laureates, have predicted massive program failure and have sent letters to Congress and to President Obama urging them to abandon this ill-conceived program.  Unless swift action is taken, this program will expand to 100 Metropolitan Statistical Areas next year, including Knoxville, Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga in Tennessee.

Sound terrible?  It is. I urge you to write your Congressman and tell him/her you do not want this program coming to your town.  Click to here and here to learn more information on the anti-competitive auction program and the legislation that could repeal it.

It’s your life, your body, your health, and your home.  You should have the right to choose who takes care of you.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.