Medicare covers a wide variety of part-time or intermittent in-home health care services to beneficiaries in need, if they meet Medicare’s criteria. Here’s how it works.
In order to secure coverage for home health care, Medicare first requires that a person be homebound. This means that it must be extremely difficult for them to leave home, and they need help doing so either from another person or medical devices like a cane, wheelchair, walker, or crutches.
The person will then need to have a face-to-face meeting with their doctor to get a home health certification confirming the need for skilled-nursing care or skilled-therapy services from a physical or speech therapist on a part-time basis.
The doctor can also request the services of an occupational therapist and a personal care aide to assist with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, and using the bathroom. A doctor must renew and certify the home health plan every 60 days.
The person will also need to use a home health agency that is certified by Medicare.
If they meet all of the requirements, Medicare should pay for in-home health care.
But be aware that Medicare will not pay for personal care aide services (for bathing, dressing, using the bathroom, etc.) alone if the person does not need skilled nursing or skilled-therapy services too. Homemaker services, such as shopping, meal preparation, and cleaning are not covered either.
If you have original Medicare, you can locate a Medicare-certified home health agency by calling 800-633-4227 or by visiting Medicare.gov/care-compare. If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, you should contact the plan directly and ask which home health agencies work with the plan and are within the plan’s network of providers.
For more detailed information on how Medicare covers in-home health, see the “Medicare and Home Health Care” online booklet at Medicare.gov/Pubs/pdf/10969-Medicare-and-Home-Health-Care.pdf.
If a person does not qualify for Medicare home health care coverage, there are other coverage options depending on your situation. Here are several that may apply to you:
If you happen to have long-term care insurance, check to see if it covers in-home care. Or if you have a life insurance policy, see if it can be utilized to pay for care.
If your income is low, you may qualify for Medicaid, which offers different home and community-based services that can pay for in-home care. To investigate this, contact your local Medicaid office.
Also, see if PACE – which stands for “Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly” – is available in your area (see NPAonline.org). PACE provides in-home care, including help with activities of daily living, such as meals, and dental and medical care, among other benefits.
If you’re a veteran, the VA also offers some benefits that can help. Two programs to inquire about are “Aid and Attendance or Housebound Allowances” and the “Veteran-Directed Care” program. Both programs provide monthly financial benefits to eligible veterans that can help pay for in-home care. To learn more, contact your regional VA benefits office (see Benefits.va.gov/benefits/offices.asp or call 800–827–1000).
To look for these and other programs in your area that can help pay you with home care, go to PayingForSeniorCare.com and click on “Find Financial Assistance for Care” to access their Eldercare Financial Assistance Locator tool. Or, visit Senior Resource’s directory for home care:
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org.
Jim MillerContributing Writer
Jim Miller is the creator of Savvy Senior, a syndicated information column for older Americans and their families that is published in more than 300 U.S. newspapers and magazines. Jim is also a contributor to NBC’s “Today” show and KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City, and is the author of The Savvy Senior, The Ultimate Guide to Health, Family and Finances for Senior Citizens.
Jim is frequently quoted in articles about issues affecting senior citizens and has been featured in numerous national publications, including Time magazine, USA Today and The New York Times. In addition, he has made multiple appearances on CNBC, CNN, Retirement Living Television and national public television. Read more from Jim Miller.