Does Medicare Cover Meals on Wheels?

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007
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This article was updated on: 10/06/2018

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Meals on Wheels is a nationwide meal delivery service for seniors, with more than 5,000 programs operating across the country. Learn more about how Meals on Wheels works and whether Medicare covers this program.

Older adults may have trouble getting enough healthy food for a variety of reasons. Lack of transportation may make grocery trips difficult, and family members might not live nearby. Older adults with severe health issues or disabilities may not have the ability to move about the house, let alone cook for themselves.

What is Meals on Wheels?

Meals on Wheels is a national network of community-based organizations that deliver meals to seniors who may not have access to healthy nutrition.  According to Meals on Wheels America, with each meal delivery, volunteers also provide social interaction and a safety check for homebound and often isolated seniors.

Meals on Wheels is best known for its meal delivery service for seniors, where food is brought directly to a homebound senior’s residence. Meals on Wheels also serves meals in group settings (such as local community centers) and encourages older adults who are able to safely leave their homes to eat their meals with others. Meals on Wheels America reports that it helps about 2,400,000 seniors nationwide.

Because Meals on Wheels programs are locally organized, each program’s benefits and eligibility requirements may vary. Some programs offer extra services, such as transportation or even pet food delivery. Check with your local Meals on Wheels program for more information.

How much does Meals on Wheels cost?

Meals on Wheels programs are need-based, and no senior will be denied service because of an inability to pay. For older adults with limited income, payment may be based on a sliding scale, and some programs may also accept food stamps.

Each program creates its own payment policy, so contact your local program for more information on costs. To apply or find a program in your location, visit the Meals on Wheels website.

Does Medicare cover a meal delivery service for seniors?

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers a wide range of medical services. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital and skilled nursing facility care, while Part B covers outpatient services, such as physical exams, preventive services, and durable medical equipment.

Original Medicare doesn’t generally cover a home meal delivery service for seniors. If you’re hospitalized (and an inpatient), Part A typically covers meals during your hospital or skilled nursing facility stay. Part B may cover limited home health services if you’re homebound, but this doesn’t typically include meal delivery services for seniors.

Do Medicare Advantage plans cover a meal delivery service for seniors?

Medicare Advantage plans are available from private insurance companies approved by Medicare. They deliver your Medicare Part A and Part B benefits (except hospice care, which Part A covers). Many Medicare Advantage plans also include extra benefits.

Medicare Advantage plans can coordinate with Meals on Wheels to offer a meal delivery service for seniors. These services are limited and temporary, and you have to meet special conditions to be eligible. For example, if you’ve just returned home after surgery, your doctor may be able to order this service through Meals on Wheels for you for up to four weeks. If you have a chronic health condition, you might be eligible for a meal delivery service for seniors for up to two weeks per year.

There are several rules and restrictions about Medicare Advantage coverage of meal delivery service. If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, you might want to call and ask for details. All Medicare Advantage plans must provide this service through Meals on Wheels if you meet the criteria for it.

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