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Does Medicare pay for nursing homes?


No, Medicare doesn’t cover any type of long-term care, whether you're in a nursing home, assisted living community or your own home.

Medicare covers medical services in these settings but it won't pay for a stay in a long-term care center or the cost of custodial care, such as assistance with the activities of daily living (ADL) like bathing, dressing, eating and using the bathroom — if that’s the only care you need.

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Does Medicare cover short-term stays for skilled nursing?

Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital services but also will pay for short-term stays in a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility (SNF) in specific situations. Your doctor may send you there to receive specialized nursing care and rehabilitation after a hospital stay.

Care in a skilled nursing facility is covered only if you had a qualifying hospital stay, meaning you were formally admitted as an inpatient to the hospital for at least three consecutive days. This is different from observation status, which doesn’t count even if you stayed in the hospital overnight.

When you enter the hospital, ask whether you’re being officially admitted or whether you’re there only for observation. That’s important in determining the beginning of your benefit period, typically the day you’re admitted to a hospital as an inpatient or become a patient in a skilled nursing facility and ends when you’ve been out of the facility for 60 days in a row. These rules mean you might have more than one benefit period in a year.

You must be admitted to a skilled nursing facility within 30 days of leaving the hospital for the same illness or a condition related to it. Your doctor also must certify that you need daily skilled care from, or under the supervision of, skilled nursing or therapy staff.

What skilled nursing facility costs does Medicare cover?

Medicare can cover many of the services you receive in a skilled nursing facility, such as:

  • A semiprivate room and meals.
  • Skilled nursing care.
  • Medical social services and dietary counseling.
  • Medications, medical equipment and supplies used in the facility.
  • Occupational therapy, physical therapy or speech and language pathology services if needed to meet your health goal.
  • Ambulance transportation if needed to receive necessary services that aren’t available in the facility.

How much do I pay if I’m in a skilled nursing facility?

The portion of the costs that you pay depends on the duration of your eligible stay in a skilled nursing facility. You’ll have the following copayments for each benefit period:

  • Nothing for days 1 to 20.
  • Up to $204 a day in 2024 for days 21 to 100.
  • All costs for days 101 and beyond 

Medicare supplemental policy, better known as Medigap; retiree coverage; or other insurance may cover the copay for days 21 to 100 or add more coverage.

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Keep in mind

Medicare doesn’t pay for the considerable cost of long-term care in a nursing home or other facility. But you may have other options to help cover long-term care costs.

Private pay. Many individuals and families pay out of pocket or tap assets such as property or investments to pay for long-term care. If they use up those resources, Medicaid may become an option.

Long-term care insurance. Some people buy long-term care insurance to pay for custodial care in a nursing home or assisted living facility or for a caregiver to come to their home. To qualify for a long-term care insurance payout, you’ll typically need help with at least two activities of daily living or provide evidence of cognitive impairment.

Veterans benefits. Military veterans may have access to long-term care benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 

Medicaid. The federally financed but state-run health program that provides coverage to people with low incomes pays a considerable portion of America’s nursing home bills. Medicaid eligibility varies by state but requires strictly limited income and financial assets.

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