Does Medicare Cover Hotel Stays?

In this article...
  • Find out whether Medicare covers the cost of hotel stays. Explore ways to pay for travel expenses related to medical care, such as surgery or cancer treatment.

Access to health care isn't evenly distributed in the United States. Many people in rural areas live far from hospitals, and this distance can interfere with their medical care. One study found that the homes of nearly 30 million Americans aren't within 60 minutes of a trauma center hospital. Another revealed that individuals who had to travel more than 50 miles for care were more likely to be diagnosed with cancer at later stages. If distance complicates your medical treatment, knowing what support may be available to cover hotel stays and other travel expenses can help you better estimate the cost of care.

Does Medicare Pay for Hotel Stays?

If you're enrolled in Medicare, your coverage is the first place you naturally turn for all expenses related to your medical needs. Unfortunately, Medicare Part A doesn't cover hotel stays related to the treatment of illnesses, injuries or diseases. The only type of accommodations that Medicare Part A pays for are stays in approved hospitals and long-term care facilities. Medicare Advantage Plans are also unlikely to cover the cost of hotels under their hospitalization benefits.

Does Medicare Cover Travel Expenses?

Generally, Medicare doesn't cover any type of travel expenses, even if they're necessary to receive medical care. Gasoline, airfare, bus fare and other expenses are your responsibility, as are the costs of food and accommodations.

Does Medicare Cover My Medical Needs When I Travel?

No matter what your reason for traveling is, Medicare will pay for typically covered medical expenses if you are within the United States or one of its territories, which include Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana. In some cases, Medicare pays for certain medical costs incurred aboard cruise ships that departed from territorial waters controlled by the United States.

Generally, Medicare doesn't pay for medical expenses during international travel unless one of the following conditions is met:

  • You require emergency care for a sudden illness while in the United States, and the closest hospital available to treat your condition is located across the border in another country.
  • You fall ill while traveling from Alaska to the contiguous United States and require emergency medical care in Canada.
  • You live in the United States, and the nearest hospital capable of treating your non-emergency condition is in a foreign country.

When Medicare does pay for medical expenses while you're out of town, coverage works the same way that it does when you're at home, meaning that you would be responsible for:

  • Satisfying your deductible before coverage begins
  • Paying coinsurance for lengthy hospital stays covered by Medicare Part A
  • Covering 20% of the cost of services that fall under Medical Part B, such as durable medical equipment or outpatient care
  • Coinsurance or copays for drugs covered by Medicare Part D

Why Would I Need to Travel for Medical Care?

People sometimes need to travel just to receive routine medical care because of the distance from their homes to their providers. If the only available appointment with a specialist is late in the day, you may prefer to stay in a hotel rather than make the long drive home.

You may also need to stay in a hotel for a prolonged period if you're undergoing treatment at a hospital or clinic that specializes in a specific form of cancer. Some surgeries may involve travel to a specialty hospital or surgical center. In this case, you may need to stay in a hotel the night before your procedure.

Sources of Funding for Hotel Stays for Medical Needs

Although Medicare doesn't cover hotel stays, you may be able to find other sources of support to cover the cost of travel for medical purposes, including:

  • Lump sum cancer insurance. With a cancer insurance policy, you pay a monthly premium in exchange for protection against financial losses due to a future cancer diagnosis. If you get cancer, the policy pays you a lump sum of money that you can use to pay for travel expenses, lost wages and treatment itself. Unfortunately, policies can't be purchased after you find out you have cancer. Plans are usually only available for people who haven't received a cancer diagnosis in the last 5 to 10 years.
  • Crowd-funding. Using a crowd-funding platform allows you to collect donations from friends, family members, neighbors, members of your community and even strangers. Results of a survey conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago found that 20 million Americans had launched medical-related campaigns for themselves and their loved ones and that one in five Americans reported that they or someone in their households had previously contributed to one or more health care crowdfunding campaigns.
  • Nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofits offer financial assistance for people undergoing medical care. The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge program provides free short-term accommodations during cancer treatments. In addition, the Healthcare Hospitality Network offers low and no cost accommodations for those traveling for treatments for cancer and other conditions.
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