- Original Medicare typically doesn’t cover meal delivery services, but some Medicare Advantage plans do, usually for a limited time.
- Your meals are covered by original Medicare when you’re an inpatient at a hospital or skilled nursing facility.
- Community organizations, such as Meals on Wheels, and consumer services are other meal delivery options.
Sometimes you or a loved one may be homebound and unable to shop for groceries or prepare meals. While original Medicare doesn’t usually cover meal delivery services, some Medicare Advantage plans and community organizations do.
Read on to find out what Medicare does and doesn’t cover, plus other ways you can get help with meal deliveries.
Original Medicare coverage
Part A will cover meals when you’re an inpatient at a hospital or skilled nursing facility. It won’t, however, cover meal delivery to a place other than the facility where you’re admitted.
Medicare Advantage coverage
Medicare Advantage (also known as Medicare Part C) is healthcare option you can choose to replace your original Medicare coverage.
Part C plans are purchased through a private insurance company that fulfills your hospital and medical benefits. These plans typically offer additional coverage beyond original Medicare, such as vision, dental, and hearing.
Some Medicare Advantage plans offer meal delivery as a benefit, but it isn’t guaranteed with every plan. If meal delivery would be useful for you, make sure to look for a Medicare Advantage plan that offers it.
Medicare Advantage plans are offered based on your location, and they have different costs and eligibility criteria.
If you are considering changing Medicare Advantage plans, here are some important enrollment dates to know:
- Open enrollment. You can change or enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan from October 15 through December 7.
- Medicare Advantage open enrollment. You can switch from one Medicare Advantage plan to another from January 1 through March 31.
Coverage for meal delivery through Medicare Advantage can vary based on your insurance provider and its rules. Two general rules to remain aware of are:
- Many plans offer temporary assistance for a set number of meals or a set length of time after you’ve been discharged from a hospital, skilled nursing facility, or other inpatient healthcare facility.
- Most plans require means to be consistent with their policies. This usually means that the meals must be nutritious and in line with Medicare’s daily nutritional guidelines.
Contact your plan to find out whether it offers any meal-related benefits, as well as the details specific to your plan. Your plan can explain how to arrange for meal delivery and which companies in your area offer this service.
Coverage after an inpatient stay
If you’re in the hospital and then discharged home, your Medicare Advantage plan may offer delivery for 10 meals. These meals can be specific to your dietary needs, such as gluten-free or vegetarian. Your plan might limit how many hospital stays qualify for meal delivery, but four stays is fairly standard.
Coverage for a chronic condition
If you have a chronic medical condition — such as congestive heart failure, diabetes, or end stage renal disease — your Medicare Advantage plan may pay for up to 20 meals specific to your condition. Many of the plans might contract with companies in your area that offer delivery services.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently approved additional coverage for meal delivery through a grant-based program for qualifying adults and those with chronic medical conditions. This includes home-delivered meals and meals at community organizations.
CMS approved $250 million in grants that will go to community organizations, faith-based organizations, and other services that provide meals. The following sections provide more detail on these types of programs.
What it is: The Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) offers a variety of services to help people ages 55 and over live safely in their community. Both Medicare and Medicaid fund the program, which can provide meals as well as nutritional counseling for those in need.
What’s offered: Services vary and may include home-delivered meals; meals prepared in your home by a personal care assistant; or meals supplied through another partner organization, such as Meals on Wheels.
Find out more: To find a PACE plan in your area, visit Medicare.gov.
What it is: Medicaid is a state-funded program for those with low income and other qualifying situations. It partners with different organizations to provide meals. To qualify for meal delivery, you typically must be homebound and unable to prepare meals by yourself.
What’s offered: Many states offer home-delivered meals or meal preparation services. These meals usually provide enough food for at least 5 days per week (though this may vary based on the program). Meals can be hot, frozen, or refrigerated, based on your service area.
Find out more: Visit Medicaid.gov to learn how to apply for Medicaid and to find out more about meal delivery services.
Administration for Community Living
What it is: The Administration for Community Living (ACL) acts as a clearinghouse and financial supporter of meal delivery services through the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs. When you contact the ACL, they can help you find organizations in your community that offer meal deliveries.
What’s offered: Meal offerings may vary based on the provider.
Find out more: Visit the Eldercare Locator website. This resource helps you find meal delivery and other assistance programs in your area. To learn more, you can also call 800-677-1116.
Meals on Wheels
What it is: Meals on Wheels is a federally funded program that helps people age 60 and over receive meals delivered by volunteers. The age for eligibility can vary by program and location. Even if you don’t qualify for free meals, you can still get meals at a lower cost, based on a sliding scale and your specific situation.
What’s offered: Local kitchens prepare meals before they’re packaged and delivered by a volunteer.
Find out more: Visit MealsonWheelsAmerica.com to find a meal provider near you.
Consumer delivery services
What it is: There are many consumer meal delivery services that deliver healthy meals. These usually either provide the ingredients you need to make the meal or come fully prepared so you can just heat and eat them. Other services, like Postmates or Uber Eats, deliver ready-to-eat meals from restaurants in your area.
What’s offered: Offerings depend on service in your area, the company you choose, and available restaurants. Many consumer meal delivery services let you pick your meals. Plus, they often cater to various dietary preferences, like vegetarian or paleo, or give you options for avoiding food allergies.
Find out more: Search for a delivery company online or call your favorite restaurants to find out whether they offer meal delivery services.
Eating nutritious meals is vital to your health. It can help you stay strong and maintain a healthy weight.
If you think you might need assistance with meals due to an upcoming surgery or hospital stay, a Medicare Advantage plan that offers meal delivery may be a good option.
But Advantage plans don’t usually offer year-round meal delivery. So, if you need long-term meal delivery to your home, look for a program in your community that can help.
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