Does Medicare Cover Palliative Care?

Medicare Advantage plans (Part C) cover palliative care if it is medically necessary. Palliative care is medical care focused on pain management/relief and improving quality of life for those who are ill.

Many Medicare Advantage plans also cover home health care items and services, such as bathroom grab bars and home meal delivery, both of which are not covered by Medicare Part A and Part B.

Smiling home health care nurse working with patient

What is the difference between hospice care and palliative care?

Hospice care and palliative care are often confused and used interchangeably. However, they are different:

  • Hospice care provides end-of-life support for terminally ill patients who have decided to stop curative treatment for their disease or condition.

    Medicare beneficiaries are usually eligible for hospice services if a doctor certifies they have six months or less to live.

    Palliative care — which is designed to alleviate pain and make patients more comfortable — is just one component of hospice care. It can also include a wide variety of other end-of-life services delivered by a hospice care team, including medical equipment and supplies, social work services, grief and loss counseling for families, spiritual support and other services.
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  • Palliative care isn’t exclusively a hospice care service. Palliative care may be used in conjunction with curative treatment for a number of chronic conditions.

    A cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy may need palliative care to help him or her deal with the side effects of the chemotherapy treatment. However, they are still actively pursuing curative treatment, unlike a hospice patient.

Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B) and Medicare Advantage plans (Medicare Part C) may cover palliative care if a doctor says it is medically necessary, even if it is not part of hospice care.

Patients suffering from chronic diseases may be candidates for palliative care. These chronic diseases can include (but aren't limited to):

  • Cancer
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart disease
  • Lung disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • HIV/AIDS

Always check with your doctor and Medicare provider to see if the palliative care you are considering is covered.

Find a Medicare Advantage plan today

Medicare Advantage plans are privately sold alternatives to Original Medicare. By law, they must cover the same benefits as Original Medicare.

If you receive hospice care, you will still receive it from Medicare Part A.

Learn more about the other additional benefits that may be covered by Medicare Advantage plans where you live.

Explore Medicare Advantage plan benefits in your area

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Or call 1-800-557-6059 (TTY: 711) 24/7 to speak with a licensed insurance agent.

 

1 National Institute on Aging. What Are Palliative Care and Hospice Care? (May 17, 2017). Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/what-are-palliative-care-and-hospice-care.