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Does Medicare Pay for Assisted Living?

Key Takeaways

  • Medicare does not generally cover long-term care like assisted living.
  • However, there are certain situations where Medicare may contribute to the cost of specific services

As the population ages, many people find themselves wondering about their options for long-term care, including assisted living facilities.

One of the most common concerns is how to pay for these services and whether Medicare, the government health insurance plan for those aged 65 and older, covers these costs.

Medicare May Cover Short-Term Stays

Medicare is designed to provide coverage for short-term medical expenses and not the ongoing custodial care provided by assisted living facilities.

This means that seniors and their families will likely need to explore other options to help pay for assisted living services.

Alternative forms to pay for assisted living costs include long-term care insurance, personal savings, or other assistance programs.

When Does Medicare Pay For Assisted Living?

Medicare may cover some short-term stays in a Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility (SNF) under specific circumstances.

For example, if a doctor prescribes rehabilitation or specialized nursing care after a hospital stay, Medicare might cover part of this care.

However, this is only applicable when medically necessary and meets certain criteria, such as a 3-day inpatient hospital stay before entering the SNF.

Additionally, Medicare coverage for skilled nursing care is typically capped at 100 days per benefit period.

While Medicare itself does not cover the costs of assisted living, it will continue to pay for all approved services under Medicare Parts A and B, such as hospital stays, doctor visits, procedures, and screenings.

Seniors with Medicare Advantage (Part C), which allows beneficiaries to receive Medicare Parts A and B coverage through private health plans, may have additional coverage options depending on their plan.

What do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover?

Medicare Advantage plans, also known as Medicare Part C, are an alternative to Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

These plans are provided by private insurers and include all the coverage of Part A and Part B, often with additional benefits such as dental, vision, and hearing care.

Some Medicare Advantage plans may even cover transportation to medical appointments.

While Original Medicare does not cover the cost of assisted living facilities, some Medicare Advantage plans might help cover certain long-term care costs.

However, it’s important to note that this coverage will likely vary depending on the specific plan, and it may not cover the full cost of assisted living.

Medicare Advantage Coverage Varies By Plan

Some plans may provide limited coverage for in-home care, skilled nursing care, or other long-term care services, while others might not offer any additional support beyond Original Medicare’s coverage.

It’s also essential to remember that even with a Medicare Advantage plan, the long-term care benefits may have limitations on the allowed service providers or have caps on the total spending for long-term care services.

Individuals looking for long-term care assistance should explore other financial aid programs offered by their state or seek alternative coverage options, such as long-term care insurance.

Medigap Does Not Pay For Assisted Living

Medigap, also known as Medicare Supplement Insurance, is a type of private health insurance designed to help cover the “gaps” left by Original Medicare (Part A and Part B).

Since Original Medicare (Part A and B) does not cover assisted living costs, Medigap plans also don’t provide coverage for these expenses.

While some Medigap plans can help with coinsurance or copayments related to Medicare-certified skilled nursing facility (SNF) stays, they won’t cover services like room and board in an assisted living facility.

Alternatively, there are Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans available, which may offer some coverage for long-term care services beyond what Original Medicare covers.

Along with additional benefits, these plans may cover certain aspects of long-term care, though assisted living coverage remains limited under Medicare Advantage.

Alternative Ways to Pay for Assisted Living

When Medicare doesn’t cover assisted living, it’s important to explore other avenues of financial support. This section will describe some key alternatives.


Medicaid, a state and federal program, provides financial assistance for low-income individuals, including those needing long-term care services.

It covers expenses like nursing home care, and in some cases, home and community-based services. Each state develops its own Medicaid program, so benefits and eligibility criteria may vary.

To qualify, applicants typically need to meet strict income and asset limits. It’s essential to review your state’s Medicaid program to determine if you’re eligible and whether it covers the long-term care services you need.

Benefits of Using Medicaid to Pay for Assisted Living:

  • Makes assisted living affordable for seniors with limited financial resources
  • Gives low-income individuals access to personal care assistance and health monitoring
  • Allows for flexibility in choosing the type and level of care needed

Limitations of Using Medicaid to Pay for Assisted Living:

  • Not all assisted living facilities accept Medicaid
  • Eligible facilities may have a cap on the number of Medicaid-supported residents
  • Seniors with income or assets exceeding the specified limits may not qualify
  • Complex Medicaid regulations and benefits vary across different states

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is a private insurance option that can help cover the costs of assisted living and other long-term care services.

These policies require premium payments and usually cover a range of services, including nursing home care, in-home care, and assisted living facilities.

It’s important to evaluate the policy’s benefits, limitations, and costs before purchasing to ensure it aligns with your needs and budget.

Benefits of Long-Term Care Insurance:

  • Covers various long-term care services
  • Can help protect your assets from high care costs
  • Provides greater choice in care settings and providers

Limitations of Long-Term Care Insurance:

  • Potentially high premium costs
  • Limited coverage period or benefit caps
  • Possible pre-existing condition exclusions

VA Pension

For eligible veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers pensions that can be used towards long-term care services such as assisted living.

The VA Aid and Attendance benefit, for example, is a special monthly pension available to qualified veterans and their surviving spouses. This benefit is designed to help cover the costs of long-term care and assistance with daily living activities.

To qualify, applicants must meet specific service, income, and asset requirements, as well as demonstrate a clinical need for long-term care.

Check your eligibility and learn about the application process through the VA website or your local Veterans Affairs office.

Benefits of Using VA Pension to Pay for Assisted Living:

  • VA Pension helps eligible veterans cover the costs of assisted living services
  • VA Pension is tailored to support veterans, recognizing their service
  • Veterans have flexibility in how they allocate VA Pension funds to cover assisted living expenses

Limitations of Using VA Pension to Pay for Assisted Living:

  • Strict eligibility criteria must be met to qualify for VA Pension
  • There are strict income and asset limits for VA Pension eligibility
  • The application and approval process for VA Pension can be time-consuming

Additional Healthcare Services Covered by Medicare

While Medicare does not cover long-term care in assisted living facilities, it offers a range of healthcare coverages.

Inpatient and Outpatient Care

Part A is primarily focused on inpatient care, covering hospital stays, skilled nursing facility care, and some types of home health care.

Part B covers outpatient care, such as doctor visits, lab tests, and certain types of medical equipment, like durable medical equipment.

Home Health Care

Home health care services might be covered by Medicare if the beneficiary needs skilled nursing care or certain types of therapy. This may include physical or occupational therapy.

However, it’s important to note that Medicare does not cover custodial care, which is typically provided in assisted living facilities.

Rehabilitative and Therapy Services

Medicare covers various rehabilitative and therapy services. These can be vital for the recovery of individuals following an illness or injury.

Part B covers services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology services, as long as they’re deemed medically necessary by a healthcare professional.

Preventive and Hospice Care

Preventive care services are also covered under Medicare Part B. These services aim to help diagnose and detect illnesses at an earlier stage or prevent them altogether.

Examples include screenings, vaccinations, and counseling services. Additionally, Medicare provides coverage for hospice care to support patients with a terminal illness and their families.

Hospice care includes medical care, pain management, and support services for the patient and their family.

Dental, Vision, and Hearing Services

For dental, vision, and hearing services, seniors can consider obtaining supplemental insurance plans, also known as Medicare Advantage Plans.

You can also consider private insurance companies for standalone dental, vision, and hearing insurance plans.

Medication Management

Seniors may find assistance with medication management through Medicare Part D, which provides outpatient prescription drug coverage. Many Medicare Advantage Plans also include prescription drug coverage.

It is crucial to explore various plans and choose one tailored to individual needs and requirements, considering factors like medication costs, pharmacy networks, and formulary restrictions.


The cost of assisted living can be significant, with the median cost being $4,500 a month or $54,000 a year. This expense can put a strain on seniors’ finances, so it’s essential to explore other options for assistance in covering these costs.

Medicare typically does not cover long-term care like assisted living, as most of the services provided in these facilities are considered custodial care. However, there are some assisted living costs that Medicare may cover, such as medical services or short-term rehab care.

In summary, while Medicare generally does not pay for assisted living, there are still options available to help cover these expenses – like long-term care insurance, Medicaid, and various federal, state, and local programs – ensuring that seniors get the necessary care and support they need during their golden years.