Does Medicare Cover Funeral Expenses In 2023 (Or SSI/VA?)

Venn Diagram of What Medicare Covers

If you’re here, you probably know that a funeral isn’t cheap these days.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, once you add up all funeral service expenses and burial costs, you will have to shell out between $5,000 and $15,000.

As much as we might want to provide the best final arrangements for our loved ones, the reality is that many people have to make compromises given how unaffordable a traditional funeral is these days.

For such a basic need as easing the death of loved ones, it makes sense to ask whether the government, specifically the federal Medicare program, might offer some help.

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Does Medicare Cover Funeral Expenses?

The punch line is that your Medicare coverage will not be of help when it comes to paying for funeral arrangements.  Let’s take a look at the various parts one-by-one — Original Medicare, Medigap, and Medicare Advantage plans.

Original Medicare

Original Medicare is a federal health insurance program for adults over 65 (and younger adults who qualify through a disability).  Original Medicare refers to Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) & Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance).

Original Medicare pays for inpatient and outpatient medical services only.  Therefore, it does not cover funeral expenses.

How about Medigap?

Medicare Supplement Insurance (often referred to as “Medigap“) provides additional coverage for the same services as Original Medicare.

These plans (e.g., Plan F or Plan G) help Medicare recipients with Original Medicare’s high out-of-pocket costs.  They do not provide other forms of coverage, so we can safely rule them out in assisting with funeral expenses.

Can Medicare Advantage Help With Funeral Expenses?

And if there were one place to look for a life insurance-like benefit within Medicare, it would be within a Medicare Advantage Plan (“Medicare Part C”).

Private insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans as a way for seniors to get their Medicare benefits (Part A & B) bundled with coverage for additional services seniors typically need.

Medicare Advantage plans are known for providing coverage that Original Medicare misses.  However, life insurance is not one of them.

Does Medicare Cover Cremation Costs?

Cremation is rising fast in popularity, leading many people to ask, will Medicare cover cremation costs in the event of a Medicare beneficiary’s death?

Unfortunately, the answer is the same.  Medicare’s focus is inpatient and outpatient medical expenses for medically necessary services (while the Medicare beneficiary is living.

Since cremation costs are not considered medical expenses, Medicare does NOT cover them.

To see a complete list of the services and expenses covered by Medicare, see this resource from the official website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

Does Medicaid Cover Funeral Expenses?

Like Medicare, Medicaid is also a government-administered health insurance program.

The two key differences are:

  1. Medicaid eligibility is based on income (vs. Medicare eligibility based on age or disability)
  2. Medicaid is managed by states (vs. the federal government)

Regarding funeral costs, the answer is, unfortunately, the same.

Medicaid does not consider funeral costs to be medical expenses.  Therefore, Medicaid does not assist with funeral costs.

Local Assistance For Funeral Or Burial Expenses

However, there is some positive news for low-income individuals.

For low-income families, some states and counties offer financial assistance ($1,000 at most) to cover a direct funeral or direct cremation.

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Does Social Security Pay for Funeral Costs?

The Social Security Administration is similarly not very generous.

While Social Security does pay survivor benefits after the death of an SSI recipient, the amount ($255) is far too small to pay for a funeral or cremation.

Social Security pays a one-time lump-sum death payment of $255 to the surviving spouse, as long as they live with the deceased or receive social security benefits on the deceased’s record.

If there is no living spouse, the payment is made to a child eligible for benefits on the deceased’s record in the month of death.

Be sure to visit the relevant page on the SSA’s website or speak with your local social security office to confirm your eligibility.

Does The VA Cover Burial Costs?

The Department of Veterans Affairs is a U.S. Government agency that handles programs benefiting veterans and their family members.

It offers education opportunities, rehabilitation services, home loan guarantees, pensions, and health care (including nursing homes, clinics, and medical centers.

Thankfully, there is good news on this front:

The VA provides a generous burial allowance to those elgible, covering burial, funeral, and transportation costs!

The eligibility criteria are detailed, so instead of describing them here, we’ll refer you to the official Veterans Burial Allowance page.

Burial Benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs

Veterans Burial Allowance Benefits

If you’re eligible, here are the benefits you would receive:

  • VA burial allowance for burial and funeral costs
  • VA plot or interment allowance for the cost of the plot (gravesite) or interment
  • VA transportation reimbursement for the cost of transporting the veteran’s remains to the final resting place

Note that you have to pay out-of-pocket for these services first.  You can then apply for an allowance (at any time within two years of the veteran’s death).

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Medicare Cover Funeral and Burial Expenses?

Original Medicare (Medicare Parts A & B) covers only inpatient and outpatient medical services. There is no Medicare “death benefit” payout.

Does Medicaid Cover Funeral Expenses?

No, Medicaid covers medical expenses only. There is no Medicaid “death benefit” payment, as there is for Social Security.

Can Veterans Be Buried For Free?

Yes. If you are eligible for a Veterans Burial Allowance, the VA will reimburse you for burial and funeral costs as well as the cost of the plot (gravesite). See here for the eligibility criteria for the Veterans Burial Allowance.

Conclusion & Key Takeaways

Does Medicare cover funeral costs?  Are there other government programs that help family members cope with the exorbitant cost of traditional funerals?

The answer to both is, unfortunately, a resounding “no.”

The best way to ensure that you can pay for a funeral for your loved one is to purchase burial insurance (also known as final expense insurance).  Burial insurance is a whole life insurance policy with a small death benefit (up to $25,000) and correspondingly small monthly premiums.

Burial insurance not only covers burial costs and funeral expenses but may also be used for other final expenses – such as outstanding debt or medical bills.

Be sure to speak to a licensed insurance agent to explore your burial insurance options!

Warm Regards,
The GetSure Team

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