Lifetime warranties on durable medical equipment seems like a gift but is actually a hidden nightmare. When I first got my vest airway clearance system by Hilrom back in the early 2000s I was so excited that it came complete with a lifetime warranty of not only the air generator but the hoses, replacement vests, and even the travel bag for the complete system. It was amazing that I wouldn’t have to worry about saving for replacement parts, labor, and so on. Little did I know this supposed great warranty would become a major headache later in life.
Now don’t get me wrong the vest warranty has served me well. Like the time the machine just shut off mid treatment, totally powered down. I unplugged it for five minutes like my Mister’s first question on any electronic when it acts up, “Did you unplug it and wait five minutes before plugging it back in?” is always his first question when I say things are messing up. After a five minute break and plugging my vest machine back in, it took off again. This started happening about once a month, but the machine was ten years old by that time. This cycle of shutting down and unplugging started becoming more frequent, till it was a daily occurrence and yet I didn’t call Hillrom. I mentioned it to the Hilrom representative at the PCD Scientific Conference that I attended in Minniapolis, just as a, “I love my machine and the only issue I’ve had is…”. The representative was like, “Oh no that shouldn’t be happening. Have you called customer service?” I told her no because it wasn’t that big of an inconvenience to me. She insisted getting my information to contact me later. Two day went by and the UPS man knocked on my door, in his hands was a brand new vest 105 machine by Hilrom complete with new everything except a new travel bag. The note in the box said to just place my old air generator only in the box and hand it back to the waiting UPS man. I was impressed. It was even easier than calling customer service when I needed new vest size due to weight loss and or weight gain, they never complained. Like I said I’m blessed with a lifetime warranty on this machine.
The trouble with lifetime warranties on durable medical equipment came to my attention when the new Hilrom Monarch Vest came out. I seriously wanted one. Oh to be able to be free of so many wires while vesting was very appealing to me. Now I couldn’t and shouldn’t go completely free of tubes and wires while vesting and neither should anyone. Why? The vest was made to be used with nebulized airway medications to help thin and mobilize secretions while the vest shakes you. If you are vesting without the moisture being inhaled then you are not getting the full benefit of any vest machine. Anyways, I digress… I really wanted the Monarch but I had some weight to lose, because the Monarch has a weight limit of 200lbs. Though my clinic respiratory therapist at the time said that she preferred 175lbs. or less for effective use. And then she brought up the difficulty that other patients where having getting the Monarch vests covered by insurance if they had a 105 Vest model with a lifetime warranty. The insurance industry in their infinite wisdom was using the lifetime warranty of the vest machine to deny upgrades because the patient already had a cost efficient way of doing airway clearance treatments with a vest that had a lifetime replacement. Basically it wasn’t a fiscally sound investment for the company to get you a new machine, if you already had a working one. Why waste money… That was their reasoning.
Now in my insurance policy, like most of you I assume, there is a five year technology upgrade available for durable medical equipment and things. We are all entitled to those technology upgrades as science advancements are made. However there is this little known loophole that insurance companies have that say five year technology upgrades aren’t permitted if the technology that the patient has is in working order or has a lifetime warranty. Did you know that? Neither did most vest companies like Hilrom. Once it was discovered durable medical equipment companies modified their lifetime warranties on all future technology and or just stopped lifetime warranties altogether by replacing them with five year limited warranties. Lifetime warranties on durable medical equipment should be a lifesaver, unfortunately they are the devil in my opinion.
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