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, such as when they are recovering from a hospital stay, or have become less mobile and unable to shop for groceries or cook for themselves.
This article explains which Medicare plans cover meal delivery and looks at other programs, companies, and costs.
An individual may be able to receive meal delivery benefits depending on their Medicare coverage.
Original Medicare consists of Part A hospital coverage and Part B 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 provided by original Medicare. These benefits differ between plans.
Some Medicare Advantage plans provide meal delivery services as an optional supplemental benefit. An individual should check with the plan provider to see if a particular plan offers this service.
People with low incomes and other qualifying situations, and of any age, may be eligible for Medicaid, a public assistance healthcare program.
Medicaid may be able to provide home-delivered meals for people who cannot prepare meals for themselves.
Eligibility for meal delivery through Medicare Advantage depends on the insurance provider.
Most plans offer a set number of meals, or meals for a set temporary period after someone leaves the hospital or an SNF. Medicare Advantage plans differ, but a standard figure is delivery of 10 meals. A plan may also limit the number of eligible hospital stays that qualify for meal delivery.
Some individuals with chronic medical conditions may be eligible for a certain number of meal deliveries. These conditions include congestive heart failure, diabetes, and end stage renal disease. The plan may cover up to 20 meals, specially tailored for the condition.
People should contact their insurance provider to find out if their Medicare Advantage plan offers meal delivery services and how to arrange for meal deliveries.
In March 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved $250 million in grants for meal delivery services for qualifying adults and those with chronic medical conditions.
Several programs offer 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 that helps individuals aged 60 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 qualify 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 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.
Many private companies offer meal delivery services. They deliver either fully prepared meals or provide meal kits that people can use to prepare a meal.
Private meal delivery companies include:
- Mom’s Meals
- Hello Fresh
- Blue Apron
- Green Chef
- Hungry Root
- Purple Carrot
- Every Plate
- Splendid Spoon
People can also order meals from local restaurants and use food delivery services such as Postmates, Eat24, Door Dash, Grub Hub, or Uber Eats.
Companies vary significantly in their offerings, prices, minimum orders, and food preparation. People should visit each company’s website for details of meal services.
Meal delivery costs vary according to the provider and location.
Medicare Advantage plans
If a Medicare Advantage plan offers meal delivery, the plan holder usually does not have to pay anything extra.
The state may pay for all or some of the costs of meal deliveries for people who are eligible for Medicaid.
The state provides reimbursement for the cost of the meals. The person receiving the meals needs to find a provider offering meals at the cost of the maximum reimbursable amount, or they have to pay the difference.
Each state has different rules about who is eligible for the program. However, the meal delivery must be from a Medicaid-approved meal delivery service such as Mom’s Meals or Homestyle Direct.
Meals on Wheels
Meals on Wheels programs have different payment guidelines depending on location. They often use a sliding payment scale, and usually do not turn away people if they cannot afford to pay. Some programs accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamps.
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 availability, eligibility, and costs in their local area, as these factors vary by state.