Wheeled Mobility Devices: Manual Wheelchairs - Standard, Heavy Duty and Lightweight - CAM 1103HB

This document addresses the criteria for standard, heavy duty and lightweight manual wheelchairs. Manual wheeled mobility devices or wheelchairs are generally used by individuals with neurological, orthopedic, or cardiopulmonary conditions who cannot achieve independent or assisted movement with devices such as canes and walkers. Types of manual wheelchairs include standard, heavy duty and lightweight for pediatric and adult sizes. The appropriate type of wheelchair is determined by assessment and evaluation of body size, medical needs and physical deficits.

Medically Necessary:
A standard, heavy duty or lightweight manual wheelchair is considered MEDICALLY NECESSARY when all of the following are met:

  1. A written assessment by a physician or other appropriate clinician which demonstrates criteria 1, 2, and 3 below:
    1. The individual lacks the functional mobility to safely and efficiently move about to complete activities of daily living (ADLs) in the home setting
    2. The individual's living environment must support the use of a manual wheelchair
    3. The individual is willing and able to consistently operate the manual wheelchair safely or a caretaker has been trained and is willing and able to assist with or operate the manual wheelchair when the individual's condition precludes self-operation of the manual wheelchair
  2. Other assistive devices (for example, canes, walkers) are insufficient or unsafe to completely meet functional mobility needs
  3. The type of manual wheelchair ordered is based upon the individual’s physical or functional assessment and body size. Criteria for these types of wheelchairs are as following:
    1. Standard wheelchairs, when canes, walkers etc. are not sufficient to meet mobility needs
    2. Lightweight wheelchairs, when the member cannot consistently self-propel in a standard wheelchair
    3. Heavy duty wheelchairs, when the member’s body size cannot be accommodated in a standard wheelchair

Repairs, modifications and replacements for standard, lightweight or heavy duty manual wheelchairs are considered MEDICALLY NECESSARY when:

  1. Needed for normal wear or accidental damage
  2. The changes in the individual’s condition warrant a different wheelchair, based on clinical documentation

Not Medically Necessary:
A standard, lightweight or heavy duty manual wheelchair is considered NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY for any of the following:

  1. When solely intended for use outdoors
  2. Exceeds the basic device requirements for the individual’s condition or needs
  3. When used as a backup in case the primary device requires repair
  4. Used for leisure or recreational activities

Modifications to the structure of the home environment to accommodate the device (for example, widening doors, lowering counters) are considered NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS, 2005) Mobility Assistive Equipment National Coverage Decision (NCD), which considers the clinical indications for the appropriate types of mobility assistive devices were utilized in the development of this document. Assessments of clinical indications are based upon the ability of the individual to perform mobility-related activities of daily living (MRADLs).

Mobility impairments include a broad range of disabilities that affect a person's independent movement and cause limited mobility. In 2022, the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR) Program estimates that 31 million people have mobility impairments, which may take the form of paralysis, muscle weakness, nerve damage, stiffness of the joints, or balance/coordination deficits. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020) there are three dimensions of disability: impairment, activity limitations, and participation restrictions. In the Americans with Disabilities Act the census estimated that over 4% of the United States population has moderate to severe disability requiring an individual to use a wheelchair to assist with mobility. Nearly 4 million Americans, aged 15 years and older are required to use a wheelchair (National Census Bureau, 2012).

Selection of a manual wheelchair or a manual lightweight or heavy duty wheelchair is individualized and must consider the user's impairment(s), weight and morphology, level of function, positioning needs and environment.

In 2009, Salminen and colleagues performed a systematic review of the literature to determine the effectiveness of mobility assistive devices. The review found that mobility devices improve users’ participation and mobility; however, it was not possible to draw any general conclusions about the effectiveness of mobility device interventions. The authors emphasized that well-designed research is required to accurately assess the effectiveness of mobility assistive devices.

Souza and colleagues (2010) found that 68% of those with multiple sclerosis (MS) used wheelchairs for mobility assistance. This disease causes a wide variety of neurological deficits with ambulatory impairment being the first symptom and most common form of disability in those with MS. The authors found only a limited number of articles with higher levels of evidence addressing mobility assistance specifically for persons with MS and concluded that further research is necessary to develop an accurate assessment and measurable clinical performance model addressing the use of mobility assistive devices for the different aspects of MS-related motor impairments.

Cherubini and colleague (2012) conducted an observational study of 150 wheelchair users (n = 80 men, n = 70 women) with an average age of 46.7 ± 17.3 years, to analyze the congruence of the prescribed wheelchair and the individual’s mobility needs. The subjects had varied disabilities, 24% spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis 18%, cerebral infantile paralysis 18% and skull trauma 10%. The authors found that 68% of the prescribed wheelchairs were not suitable in reference to the wheelchair and accessories. After finding a correlation between the prescription sources and the suitability of the wheelchair for the individual, it was concluded that wheelchair prescriptions should be based on careful assessment of mobility needs and improved collaboration between physicians and technicians.


Activities of daily living (ADLs): Self-care activities such as transfers, toileting, grooming and hygiene, dressing, bathing, and eating.

Functional mobility: The ability to consistently move safely and efficiently, with or without the aid of appropriate assistive devices (such as prosthetics, orthotics, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, etc.), at a reasonable rate of speed to complete an individual’s typical mobility-related activities of daily living; functional mobility can be altered by deficits in strength, endurance sufficient to complete tasks, coordination, balance, speed of execution, pain, sensation, proprioception, range of motion, safety, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Mobility-related activities of daily living (MRADLs): Daily self-care such as toileting, feeding, dressing, grooming, and bathing that require ambulatory movement to an area for these activities.


  1. Cherubini M, Melchiorri G. Descriptive study about congruence in wheelchair prescription. Eur J Phys Rehabil Med. 2012; 48(2):217-222.
  2. McLaurin CA, Axelson P. Wheelchair standards: an overview. J Rehabil Res Dev Clin Suppl. 1990; (2):100-103.
  3. Salminen AL, Brandt A, Samuelsson K, et al. Mobility devices to promote activity and participation: a systematic review. J Rehabil Med. 2009; 41(9):697-706.
  4. Souza A, Kelleher A, Cooper R, et al. Multiple sclerosis and mobility-related assistive technology: systematic review of literature. J Rehabil Res Dev. 2010; 47(3):213-223.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Disability and health overview. September 16, 2020. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/disabilityandhealth/disability.html. Accessed on September 16, 2022.
  6. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. National Coverage Decision (NCD) for Mobility Assistive Equipment (MAE) NCD# 280.3. Effective May 5, 2005. Available at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/mcd/index_chapter_list.asp. Accessed on September 16, 2022.
  7. National Census Bureau. Facts for Features: 22nd Anniversary of Americans with Disabilities Act: July 25, 2012. Available at: http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/facts_for_features_special_editions/cb12-ff16.html. Accessed on September 16, 2022.
  8. National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR). Last updated August 01, 2022. Available at: https://www.acl.gov/about-acl/about-national-institute-disability-independent-living-and-rehabilitation-research. Accessed on September 16, 2022.

Coding Section
The following codes for treatments and procedures applicable to this document are included below for informational purposes. Inclusion or exclusion of a procedure, diagnosis or device code(s) does not constitute or imply member coverage or provider reimbursement policy. Please refer to the member's contract benefits in effect at the time of service to determine coverage or non-coverage of these services as it applies to an individual member.

When services may be Medically Necessary when criteria are met:






Fully reclining wheelchairs [includes codes E1050, E1060, E1070]



Hemi-wheelchairs [includes codes E1083, E1084, E1085, E1086]



High-strength lightweight wheelchairs [includes codes E1087, E1088, E1089, E1090]



Wide, heavy-duty wheelchairs



Semi-reclining wheelchair



Semi-reclining wheelchair



Standard wheelchairs [includes codes E1130, E1140, E1150, E1160]



Manual adult size wheelchair, includes tilt in space



Amputee wheelchairs [includes codes E1170, E1171, E1172, E1180, E1190]



Heavy duty wheelchair



Amputee wheelchair



Special size wheelchairs [includes codes E1220, E1221, E1222, E1223, E1224]



Wheelchair, pediatric size, not otherwise specified



Wheelchairs, pediatric size, tilt-in-space [includes codes E1231, E1232, E1233, E1234]



Wheelchairs pediatric size, rigid or folding [includes codes E1235, E1236, E1237, E1238]



Lightweight wheelchairs [includes codes E1240, E1250, E1260, E1270]



Heavy duty wheelchairs [includes codes E1280, E1285, E1290, E1295]



Standard wheelchair



Standard hemi (low seat) wheelchair



Lightweight wheelchair



High strength, lightweight wheelchair



Heavy-duty wheelchair (bariatric)



Extra heavy-duty wheelchair (bariatric)



Custom manual wheelchair/base



Other manual wheelchair/base

ICD-10 Diagnosis

  All diagnoses

When services are Not Medically Necessary:
For the procedure codes listed above when criteria are not met or for situations designated in the Clinical Indications section as NOT MEDICALLY NECESSARY.


Bariatric Wheelchairs
Hemi-height Wheelchairs
Lightweight Wheelchairs
Manual Mobility Device
Manual Wheelchair
Pediatric Wheelchair
Standard Wheelchair

The use of specific product names is illustrative only. It is not intended to be a recommendation of one product over another, and is not intended to represent a complete listing of all products available.


History From 2024 Forward 

01/01/2024 NEW POLICY 


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