Durable Medical Equipment (An Igloo Cooler With Hoses)

After my husband’s knee surgery on Monday, the docs and physical therapists were going over all the things we need to do for the next few weeks to give him the best chance of a full recovery. One of the things they emphasized was ice, and their recommendation was an automatic icer. It’s basically a cooler with a pump inside it and two hoses that come out of it and plug into an insulated wrap that goes around the knee. Then there’s a cord that plugs the unit into a wall outlet and has a control to adjust the level of coldness. All we have to do is refill the ice as it melts, and keep it plugged in.

The other option was to use plain old ice packs. But the catch is that he’s supposed to be icing his knee pretty much constantly all day and all night. If we use ice packs, we have to take them on and off to make sure that we don’t ice for more than 20 minutes each hour (to avoid over cooling the area). But the automatic icer cycles on and off, so you can leave it on all day and it will maintain the right temperature.

In the hospital, they told us that they would bill the ice machine to our insurance, but that there was no guarantee that it would be covered, and that we would be responsible for the price if the insurance company doesn’t pay for it. They told us it runs $200 – $300, depending on what insurance network you have.

We decided to go for it. We took the icer and the hospital is billing the insurance company. We hope that they cover it, and we think there’s a good chance they will (and we’re brokers for that insurance company and sell a good number of policies for them every month, so we do have contacts there and a bit of leverage if we need to use it). But even if they don’t, we consider it $300 well spent. Every night, we’ve been able to just plug the icer in next to our bed and go to sleep, knowing that it will keep his knee cool all night. I get up after about 6 hours or so and add more ice, but that’s a whole lot better than taking an ice pack on and off every hour. If we didn’t have the automatic icer, his knee would probably not be getting iced nearly as well, despite our best intentions.

I suppose it would have been frugal to use ziplock bags of ice cubes and take them on and off all day for the next few weeks. But the results would probably not have been as good, especially at night. This is one of those times when the more expensive option ends up being the better value, both in convenience and in overall outcome. I’m glad we take the frugal option 95% of the time, because it makes it easier to take the more expensive option when it really matters.

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  1. says

    That is exactly why you live frugally! To have CHOICES when it comes to spending money. Sounds like it was worth every penny and I hope DH’s recovery keeps humming along!

  2. says

    This is one of those things where it is totally worth it to spend the money if you need to. Most folks wouldn’t be able to keep up the iceing routine with the regular packs, and who knows how that would effect his recovery.

    You made a good choice.

  3. Roy says

    I would be interested in knowing what you actually paid for this ice cooler rental. I found your website while trying to find information on Aberdeen Medical in New Jersey. My son had knee surgery, and we were handed one of these coolers after the surgery and told we would be contacted by someone later. My insurance EOB now shows an $850 claim that was not paid, and I assume that Aberdeen Medical was the supplier of the cooler based on the name on the EOB form.

    I will say that the machine was handy, and I wish I had invented it because it is so simple and useful. But really! $850? How much did you end up paying? Thanks you.

  4. FrugalBabe says

    Hi Roy,

    We ended up paying about $300 for the cooler. The medical supply company was out of network for our health insurance, so our out of network deductible applied and we had to pay for the cooler ourselves. We’re still using it every night, 3 months later, so we figure it was worth it. $850 does seem excessive. Make sure you talk to you health insurance company before you pay the bill – ours did do some negotiating and got our price reduced from $400, even though the supplier was out of network. Good luck!

    Frugal Babe

  5. Jenny says

    Help! I have a friend who is going to have surgery and she needs one of those but I can’t remember any of the info on it- make/modelnumber, even the name of the critter. Would you please send me the info on your Hubby’s ice machine?thanks!!

  6. Mary says

    I have had an ice pump for years and use it all over for foot/knee/back injuries. I have shared it with friends who had surgery and I am about to use it again for my own knee replacement surgery. BEST $200 I ever invested and I recommend it to anyone who is having surgery and will need ice. Be sure to stock up on bags of ice!

  7. Meradeth says

    What is the name of this unit? We used to have one and I need another one for my husband’s back. I googled ice pump and automatic icer but couldn’t find anything

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