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WHAT SHOULD BE IN A LETTER OF MEDICAL NECESSITY?
A skillfully drafted letter of medical necessity is an essential part of a request for funding for assistive technology. A letter of medical necessity, whether being submitted to the Department of Human Services, a private insurance company or other funding source, should contain the information needed to convince the reader that the requested assistive technology is necessary to meet the medical needs of the person for whom the assistive technology is being requested. This fact sheet is intended as a guide to preparing such a letter of medical necessity.
The letter of medical necessity should be written by a medical professional familiar with the requesting party's medical condition. The professional should briefly describe their credentials and relationship to the requesting party. This professional may be a physician, a nurse, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist or other medical professional. However, note that most funding sources require a physician's prescription as part of the funding request. Therefore, letters of medical necessity not written by a physician should be endorsed by a physician or accompanied by a physician's prescription.
ELEMENTS OF A LETTER OF MEDICAL NECESSITY
1. Disability Description - The letter should contain, usually at the beginning, a thorough description of the requesting party's disability. This description should include an explanation of how the disability affects the requesting party's function. For example, the affects of the disability on the use and function of the requesting party's legs. The disabling condition(s) and/or functional limitation(s) which necessitate the request for the assistive technology should be highlighted.
2. Assistive Technology Description - The assistive technology being requested should be described in some detail. A more thorough description is required when the requested technology is new, unique, customized or not frequently requested.
3. Assistive Technology Relationship to Medical Needs - The letter should explain how the requested assistive technology addresses the requesting party's medical needs or functional limitations. Generally in this context, a medical need is not a need to receive medical treatment. Rather, it is a need to compensate for a function which is limited as a result of a disability. For example, a requesting party has a medical need for a wheelchair to compensate for lost function in the lower extremities and to have a functional means of mobility.
4. Inability of Alternatives to Meet Medical Needs - Where there are alternatives, especially less expensive alternatives, available to meet the requesting party's medical needs, the letter should explain why these alternatives are not appropriate for the
requesting party. Also, the specific features which make the requested technology the necessary and appropriate alternative should be identified,
5. Ability to Use Technology - The letter should detail the requesting party's ability to use the requested assistive technology. This is especially important when the technology is motorized, electronic or particularly sophisticated. For example, when a power wheelchair is being requested, the requesting party's ability to safely operate a power wheelchair should be noted. If there was a trial with the requested device the results of this trial should be summarized.
6. Requested Assistive Technology as Community Standard- The letter should justify and explain the requesting party's need for the assistive technology. This justification should be in terms of the community standard of practice by the medical professional's peer group. The medical professional should explain that it is the standard practice or current practice in their medical profession to provide the requested assistive technology to persons with the requesting party's disability.
The letter that follows is a sample letter of medical necessity. The numbers contained in the letter correspond to the numbered elements of a letter of medical necessity.
This fact sheet was produced with funds from the Governor's Advisory Council on Technology for People with Disabilities/STAR Program funded by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research under the Technology-Related Assistance for Individuals with Disabilities Act of 1988 as amended, P.L. 103-018. This fact sheet may be reproduced; if reproduced in its entirety, with credit to the Minnesota Disability Law Center.
The Minnesota Disability Law Center 430 First Avenue N., Suite 300 Minneapolis, MN 55401-1780 Toll Free Number: 1-800-292-4150
December 20, 1994.