Original Medicare generally does not cover the cost of meal delivery services. Many Medicare Advantage plans include meal delivery services and assistance with grocery shopping.
Meal delivery programs provide food and meals to people who need assistance due to physical or other medical reasons.
For example, a person may need meal delivery when they are recovering from a hospital stay, have become less mobile, or are no longer able to shop for groceries or cook for themself.
This article explains which Medicare plans cover meal delivery and looks at other programs, companies, and costs.
Original Medicare consists of Part A, which is hospital coverage, and Part B, which is medical coverage. It usually does not cover meal delivery services.
If someone is an inpatient in a hospital or a skilled nursing facility (SNF), Part A covers meals. It does not cover meal delivery to any other location.
Private insurance companies provide Medicare Advantage plans, which offer additional benefits above those that original Medicare provides. These benefits differ among plans.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 55% of Medicare Advantage plans in 2021 offer meal benefits. These may include nutrition education, cooking classes, or meal delivery plans.
Most plans offer either a fixed number of meals or meals for a set temporary period after someone leaves the hospital or SNF.
Some individuals with chronic medical conditions may also be eligible for meal benefits. These are usually available through a special Medicare Advantage plan called a Special Needs Plan (SNP). Examples of SNP-related conditions include congestive heart failure, diabetes, and end stage renal disease.
An update by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2020 may make it possible for some people with chronic conditions to access even more meal benefits through Medicare Advantage.
People can contact their insurance provider to find out whether their Medicare Advantage plan offers meal delivery services, including the supplemental meal benefits, and how to arrange meal deliveries.
Medicaid, a public assistance healthcare program, may be able to provide home-delivered meals for people who cannot prepare meals for themselves due to physical or other medical reasons.
Medicaid generally provides health coverage for people of any age if they have a low income. However, a person may need to fulfill additional conditions to receive reimbursement for meal deliveries. The rules may be different in every state.
For example, a person may need to be an older adult with a low income to qualify. Medicaid may also require a person to verify that they receive sufficient assistance with daily living to qualify for meal delivery. A person should check the rules on meal delivery with Medicaid in their state.
In March 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services approved $250 million in grants for meal delivery services for qualifying adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
In addition, people who receive nutrition assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) may be able to use SNAP to order groceries online as part of a pilot program that launched in 2019. This order can include prepared grocery store meals. A person can check whether the online purchasing pilot is available in their state.
Several other programs offer additional meal delivery services if someone needs assistance with meals:
Administration for Community Living
The Administration for Community Living (ACL) provides meal delivery services through the Older Americans Act Nutrition Programs. The ACL helps people find local organizations that offer meal deliveries through their Eldercare Locator website.
Meals on Wheels
The federal government funds the Meals on Wheels program, which helps individuals aged 60 years and above with meal delivery. Eligibility varies by individual program and location. This tool may help a person find a location in their area. If someone does not qualify for free meals, they may be eligible for lower cost meals, depending on their income.
Medicare and Medicaid fund the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). This program offers assistance to people aged 55 years and over to live safely in their own homes.
PACE may offer nutritional counseling and help with meals. They may also partner with another organization, such as Meals on Wheels, for home-delivered meal services. PACE may also provide help through a personal care assistant who prepares meals in the person’s home.
If a person needs temporary assistance with meals, Medicare Advantage plans that offer meal delivery may be an option.
Other choices for long-term meal delivery include Meals on Wheels and private companies.
People who need meal delivery services should check the availability, eligibility, and costs in their local area, as these factors vary by state.