When a person loses a body part, he or she may turn to somatic prostheses. These pieces of durable medical equipment take the place of an amputated or missing body part, helping the patient regain proper function of their hands or feet and conduct daily activities such as brushing their teeth or walking steadily. Such equipment is designed to look like the body part in an effort to return the appearance to its original form. There are generally three types of somatic prostheses: hand, finger and toe.

What are hand prostheses?
A hand prosthesis is a type of somatic prostheses that replaces normal function and appearance when someone loses a hand. They tend to be made from silicone that recreates the texture, feel and look of the actual body part. They may be held on place using natural suction or adhesive. Advancements in technology have led to prosthesis that allow the user to move the prosthetic fingers and grasp objects. These types involve placing metal electrode plates against the skin that can detect tiny signals created in the muscles. These signals are communicated to the prosthesis, allowing the wearer to control movement of the artificial hand.

One of the problems with these devices is that the limbs do not return sensory information to the user, making it difficult to know how tight they're gripping an object or how far they've wiggled their fingers. But recent discoveries in technology that transmits stimulatory information from the artificial hand to the user. Since these devices are still being developed and not yet ready for medical use, they are not covered by Medicare.

Does Medicare cover hand prostheses?
While Medicare does not provide coverage for devices that are not approved for medical use, the national health care program does help pay for the cost of hand prostheses that are deemed medically necessary. Medicare will take care of 80 percent of the cost, leaving you to pay the remaining 20 percent. You are also responsible for paying your plan's deductible.

How do I qualify for coverage?
Those who need hand prostheses must have a prescription from a doctor who is enrolled in Medicare in order to obtain coverage through the national health care program. The physician must decide that the device is medically necessary to restore function to the missing body part. Depending on how you have your prosthetic hand attached, the program will provide coverage in a different way. If you have it implanted surgically in an inpatient setting, Medicare Part a will provide coverage. Those who have the prosthesis attached in an outpatient setting will have to seek coverage from their Medicare Part B plans.

Where do I get hand prostheses?
People who are approved for coverage of their hand prostheses can purchase them through durable medical equipment suppliers that specialize in this device. A professional will develop the prosthetic hand so that it properly fits on your limb and matches your appearance. Beneficiaries must buy through a supplier that has been approved by the national health care program.