If you have trouble controlling your urinary function, your doctor may prescribe you one of the many different types of incontinence supplies. Many older people suffer from chronic incontinence, and the common complication can be caused by a variety of medical issues. People with neurological disorders, like Huntington's disease, muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's, often need incontinence supplies. While many people turn to catheters, an alternative option is the urinary collection device.

What is a urinary collection device?
Like a catheter, a urinary collection device is a piece of equipment that lets a person empty his or her bladder into a container. Sometimes known as "piddle packs," these utensils are sometimes worn to collect fluids for laboratory analysis, but they're more often used to prevent spillage for people who suffer from incontinence. It is also helpful for people who are stuck in cramped quarters or places without bathrooms for long periods of time.

The device is typically comprised of a small container with an absorbent and dehydrated sponge, which is often treated with disinfectants and odor-control chemicals – inside. The container is connected a tube, which leads to a funnel that attaches to the user's genitals. Men's urinary collection devices are designed differently than women's to fit their anatomy. To use this device, a person just holds the funnel over his or her genitals and urinates into it.

Does Medicare cover urinary collection devices?
As with other medically necessary incontinence supplies, Medicare does cover the cost of urinary collection devices. It's considered a prosthetic device, since it replaces bladder function in patients who have permanent urinary incontinence. Medicare covers both single-use and reusable varieties.

How much will a urinary collection device cost?
Medicare Part B will take care of 80 percent of the cost of your urinary collection device. You then pay 20 percent of the cost. The price of this piece of equipment varies by supplier and type. Reusable models can cost as much as $100, while one-time use devices, like those used in hospitals, are typically low-cost and come in large quantities. You may also be responsible for paying your monthly premium.

How do I qualify for coverage?
To be eligible for coverage of a urinary collection device, you must have a prescription from a qualified health care professional who determined that you require it due to a medical condition that causes urinary incontinence. The doctor must be a participant of the Medicare program, and he or she should specify why you require a urinary collection device as opposed to a regular catheter.

Where do I get a urinary collection device?
You can purchase this device through a manufacturer or wholesaler of durable medical equipment. They may also be available at pharmacies. You should buy it through a supplier that is approved by the national health care program. You will also want to wait until Medicare approves the cost of the device before ordering it. Otherwise, Medicare may refuse coverage and you may end up paying more than necessary.