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Does Medicare cover transportation?

​Original Medicare pays for ambulance services for emergencies and for some approved situations that are not emergencies, but its coverage pretty much ends there.

Some private Medicare Advantage plans cover emergency ambulance services as well as transportation to doctor’s appointments and some transportation beyond that for people with chronic conditions. The benefits vary significantly from plan to plan.

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What transportation costs does Medicare pay for?

Medicare covers emergency ambulance transportation if you require medically necessary services at a hospital or skilled nursing facility and you can’t be safely moved otherwise. It may allow emergency ambulance transportation via plane or helicopter if you can’t get care fast enough using ground transportation.

Medicare covers an ambulance ride that’s not an emergency if your doctor writes an order stating that an ambulance is medically necessary because other ways to get you to an appointment could endanger your health. For example, if you’ve been diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, Medicare may pay if you have a doctor’s order stating that it is medically necessary for you to use an ambulance to take you to and from a dialysis center. You may need prior authorization beforehand.

These services usually are paid for through Medicare Part B, which requires a 20 percent copayment of the Medicare-approved amount after you pay the annual deductible, which is $240 in 2024. A Medigap plan can help cover the copayment.

Does Medicare Advantage cover transportation?

Medicare Advantage plans issued through private insurers cover emergency ambulance services. But they may have different copays, such as $245 per trip for one plan while another may cost $260. They may allow some nonemergency ambulance services if you receive prior authorization.

These plans may pay for transportation to doctor’s appointments and even nonmedical transportation for people with certain chronic conditions.

Medical-related transportation. In 2024, 36 percent of regular Medicare Advantage plans and 88 percent of Medicare Advantage special needs plans provide transportation benefits for medical needs, according to KFF, a health policy nonprofit formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation.

For example, you may have a $0 copay for up to 36 one-way trips every 12 months to approved health-related locations, such as doctor appointments. You may need to use a transportation vendor that the plan has approved.

Nonmedical transportation. People with chronic conditions may qualify for additional transportation benefits. Medicare Advantage plans have been able to offer Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill since 2020. Not necessarily medically related, these extra benefits can include expenses such as a grocery allowance, home modifications, meal delivery and pest control. Each plan determines which chronic conditions qualify. 

Some may include transportation for needs that aren’t medical. In 2024, 6.1 percent of regular Medicare Advantage plans and 29.8 percent of special needs plans provide nonmedical transportation benefits for people with certain chronic conditions, according to KFF. 

For example, a plan may cover up to 24 one-way trips every 12 months with a $0 copay for members with qualifying chronic conditions to go to plan-approved, nonmedical locations such as churches, community events, grocery stores and senior centers. Authorization may be required for trips of more than 50 miles.

How do I find Advantage plans with transportation benefits?

Go to the Medicare Plan Finder, type in your zip code or log into your online Medicare account and search for Medicare Advantage plans. You’ll see a green check mark under “Transportation” in the list of plan benefits in the right-hand column. You can filter the list for plans with transportation benefits by clicking on View all filters | Transportation | Apply Filters.

For more information, click Plan Details | Extra Benefits | View More Extra Benefits to see if the plan covers nonemergency transportation related to health or other areas.

For specifics, click on the link to the Plan Website beneath the plan name.  You can find more information about transportation coverage in the plan’s Summary of Benefits.  


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Keep in mind

If you don’t qualify for transportation, you have other options to get help with transit services or costs.

Your local Area Agency on Aging may list local transportation programs, such as the CountyRide program in Baltimore County, Maryland, which provides transportation services for residents age 60 or older or who have disabilities. You can find your Area Agency on Aging and other local resources by typing your zip code or city and state into the Eldercare Locator tool.  

If you qualify for Medicaid, the joint federal-state program for people with limited income, emergency and some nonemergency transportation to Medicaid-covered appointments are paid for.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Let Medicaid Give You a Ride factsheet is a good resource. Specifics vary by state. 

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