What to Know About Lift Chairs

Medically Reviewed by Sarah Goodell on February 10, 2024
3 min read

‌Lift chairs are motorized chairs that help you move from a sitting to a standing position. They're useful for people recovering from surgery or those with arthritis or a neurological condition that limits movement. You control a lift chair using a remote control.

Every year, 3 million people aged over 65 years are treated at the emergency department for injuries from falls.

Lift chairs look like normal chairs but have a motorized part that lifts and tilts the chair forward to help you stand up. Lift chairs help older people with poor mobility to safely rise to a standing position. These chairs are also useful for people with severe hip or knee arthritis.

Lift chairs can also improve posture. Some chairs offer lots of settings so you can choose a position that works best for you. If the chair has an elevated footrest, you can use this to reduce leg swelling and pain. You won't use as much energy getting up from a lift chair, so you may benefit from reduced fatigue, especially in the shoulders.

There are three types of lift chairs:

  1. Infinite position lift chair. Its footrest is controlled separately from the backrest, and this backrest can recline fully. 
  2. Two-position lift chair. It doesn't recline fully, so it may not be as comfortable as the other varieties. 
  3. Three-position lift chair. It can recline fully, but its footrest doesn't have a separate control, so it extends as the backrest reclines.

The backrest can be stopped at any point of recline in all lift chairs.

You can test out different lift chairs before buying one at medical supply shops near hospitals.

It's important to be aware of your surroundings while using the chair. So, you should consider these risks before buying a lift chair:

  • Small children and pets may get trapped under the base of the chair when it's lowered or between the seat cushion and backrest while the chair is bought forward.
  • Your legs may get trapped between the seat cushion and leg rest.
  • Pillows and other bedding may fall off the chair and get trapped inside the chair.

If you're on Medicare Part B, your insurance may cover most of the cost of a lift chair once you pay the deductible. You'll owe around 20%, and Medicare will pay the rest. But the specific amount you'll owe depends on what other insurance you have and who your supplier is.

Before Medicare can cover the cost of your lift chair, your doctor will judge whether the chair is a medical necessity for you. So, your doctor will fill out the medical necessity form, which asks them to confirm the following:

  • If you've been diagnosed as having severe knee or hip arthritis, or another severe neuromuscular disease
  • If you can move around once you've stood up
  • If you can't stand up by yourself from any other type of chair
  • If you've tried other treatments and devices to help you stand, but they've failed (as shown by medical records)

Under Medicare, you might be asked to rent a lift chair instead of buying it or you may be given a choice of either buying or renting it. Your doctor and supplier must both be enrolled in Medicare. Ask your doctor for a list of approved lift chair suppliers near you.

Under Medicare Part B, lift chairs are a type of durable medical equipment — or DME — called a "patient lift". As a DME, the lift chair should work for at least 3 years.

If you've bought a lift chair from an approved supplier and you're on Medicare Part B, then you can ask your supplier to file a claim for you. The claim must be filed within 12 months of you buying the chair because claims filed after this date won't be paid. 

If you're close to the deadline and your supplier still hasn't filed a claim, you can file one yourself. All you need to do is provide:

  • A completed "Patient Request for Medical Payment" form
  • A letter explaining why you're filing the claim instead of your supplier 
  • A bill from your supplier
  • Supporting documents