What Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care

What Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care


What Does Medicare Pay for Nursing Home Care?

Navigating the complexities of Medicare coverage for nursing home care can be challenging. Understanding what is covered and the eligibility criteria is crucial for planning and ensuring the best possible care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Medicare Coverage for Nursing Home Care

Medicare, a federal health insurance program, primarily covers healthcare costs for individuals aged 65 and older, certain younger people with disabilities, and individuals with End-Stage Renal Disease. However, its coverage for nursing home care is limited and subject to specific conditions.

Types of Nursing Home Care Covered by Medicare

Medicare does not cover long-term nursing home care (also known as custodial care). It primarily pays for short-term stays in skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) under certain conditions. These conditions include:

  • Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Care: Medicare Part A covers up to 100 days of skilled nursing care per benefit period, provided certain criteria are met. This includes services such as physical therapy, wound care, and administration of IV medications.
  • Home Health Care: For those who qualify, Medicare also covers some home health services, including intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, and speech-language pathology services.

Eligibility Criteria for Medicare Coverage

To qualify for Medicare-covered skilled nursing care, the following conditions must be met:

  • Hospital Stay: You must have a qualifying hospital stay of at least three days before being admitted to a skilled nursing facility.
  • Doctor’s Certification: A doctor must certify that you need daily skilled care, which can only be provided in a skilled nursing facility.
  • Medicare-Certified Facility: The facility where you receive care must be certified by Medicare.

Coverage Details and Costs

While Medicare covers a significant portion of the costs for short-term nursing home care, there are still out-of-pocket expenses that beneficiaries need to be aware of:

  • First 20 Days: Medicare covers the full cost for the first 20 days of skilled nursing care.
  • Days 21-100: For days 21 through 100, Medicare requires a copayment, which is adjusted annually.
  • Beyond 100 Days: Medicare does not cover costs beyond 100 days per benefit period, leaving individuals responsible for all costs.

Services Included Under Medicare Coverage

Medicare’s coverage for nursing home care includes a range of services, ensuring that beneficiaries receive the necessary medical attention and support during their stay. These services include:

Skilled Nursing Care

  • Nursing Services: Medicare covers skilled nursing services, which include tasks that require medical training and can’t be performed by non-professional staff.
  • Rehabilitation Services: Physical, occupational, and speech therapy services are covered when needed to improve or maintain the patient’s condition.
  • Medical Social Services: Medicare also includes coverage for services provided by social workers, such as counseling and discharge planning.

Medical Supplies and Equipment

  • Medications: Some medications administered in the nursing facility are covered under Medicare Part A.
  • Durable Medical Equipment (DME): Medicare covers necessary medical equipment like wheelchairs and walkers.

Navigating Additional Coverage Options

Given the limitations of Medicare’s coverage for long-term nursing home care, individuals often need to explore additional options to cover their needs.


Medicaid, a joint federal and state program, covers long-term care costs for individuals with limited income and resources. Unlike Medicare, Medicaid covers custodial care in nursing homes.

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance policies are designed to cover services not typically included under Medicare or standard health insurance. These policies can provide coverage for extended nursing home stays and other long-term care services.

Tips for Maximizing Medicare Benefits

  • Plan Ahead: Understanding the coverage limitations and planning for potential costs can help avoid financial surprises.
  • Stay Informed: Regularly review Medicare updates and changes to stay informed about coverage and eligibility criteria.
  • Consult Professionals: Seek advice from healthcare professionals and Medicare advisors to navigate the complexities of Medicare and make informed decisions.

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