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Does Medicare Pay for Funerals?

Medicare does not pay for funeral expenses, but Social Security, the Department of Veterans Affairs and some state and local agencies may offer help paying for funeral costs. Learn how you can get help paying for final expenses.

David Levine

by David Levine | Published April 03, 2021 | Reviewed by John Krahnert

Few people want to think about funerals, least of all their own or their loved one’s. But planning for the end of life is sound financial practice. If a funeral is part of your plans, you need to know how to pay for it.

How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

Funerals are not cheap. According to the financial website The Motley Fool, the median funeral costs are:1

  • Service and burial: $7,640
  • Service and a burial vault: $9,135.
  • Service and cremation: $6,645.

These are median numbers, though, and experts recommend you budget $10,000 to be on the safe side. This can help cover a basic funeral with a viewing and burial, as well as expenses for extras like transportation and catering.

Will Medicare Help Cover Funeral Costs?

Bottom line: No, Medicare doesn’t cover funeral expenses. 

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers hospital and medical expenses, but not funeral costs.

Likewise, a beneficiary who is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or a Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan will not receive funeral or bereavement coverage from their Medicare plan.

Does Social Security Cover Funeral Expenses?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) does pay a survivor benefit, a one-time payment to the spouse or child of the beneficiary. Your survivors can use these benefits to pay for funeral costs if they so choose.

But the SSA says that the maximum one-time lump-sum death payment is only $255 in 2021, and it might be less in some cases. The portion of long-term benefits that a surviving spouse or children will get depends on the amount the deceased paid into Social Security. The benefit amount also depends on the survivor’s age at death and Social Security eligibility. 

Obviously, this benefit would cover only a fraction of the cost of a funeral.

SSA says this payment can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased or, if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security benefits on the deceased’s record.

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

What Do I Do With My Loved One’s Medicare Plan After They Pass Away?

 When your loved one passes away, you may need to inform Medicare and/or their other insurance carrier of the death.

  • If the deceased was an Original Medicare beneficiary, the survivors must report the death to Medicare. You can call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. TTY users can call 1-800-325-0778.

    You can also visit your local Social Security Administration office in person to notify them of the death. You’ll need the deceased’s Social Security number.

  • If the loved one was enrolled in a Medicare-approved private insurance plan, such as a Medicare Advantage (Part C) or Medicare Prescription Drug (Part D) plan, you must notify Medicare as above. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will notify the plan provider after you report the death. Your loved one will be disenrolled from the plan the first day of the month after the month of death.

    For example, if the beneficiary dies on January 20, he or she will be disenrolled from the plan on February 1. You may want to follow up with the private insurer just to be sure the policy is cancelled.

  • If your loved one was a Railroad Retirement Board beneficiary, you can contact the RRB at 1-877-772-5772, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. TTY users can call 1-312-751-4701.

Other Sources of Funeral Cost Assistance

For those who qualify, these other sources of assistance may be able to help with funeral costs.

  • State and Local Burial Assistance
    According to Debt.org, each state has its own rules and budgets for funeral assistance. Maine, for example, has a General Assistance Program for cremation and burial, with grants from $700-$1,000. Other states may only give help if you meet certain criteria.2

    Still other states offer no assistance for funerals, but some counties may offer financial help. Call your local Department of Health or county coroner for more information.

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
    FEMA gives burial assistance to victims of federally declared disaster areas who died as a result of the disaster, such as a flood or earthquake.

  • Military Burial Benefits for Veterans
    The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) offers benefits that depend on whether the death was related to military service or not. The VA pays up to $2,000 in burial assistance for a service-related death, and up to $780 for a non-service-related death. In addition, the Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act may provide a benefit to a military spouse if the death was service-related. Contact your local VA office for information.

  • Local Churches and Community Groups
    Community groups, charities and local churches may have funds to help families who can’t afford a funeral.

  • Tissue Donation organizations
    The not-for-profit United Tissue Network will arrange for a whole body donation for science and will cover the costs of transporting the deceased to one of donation facilities. The remains are cremated and returned to the family. There are also for-profit companies to assist in this way.

Medicare Plus a Medicare Supplement Plan Can Help You Save Money on Medical Bills

Navigating health problems can be challenging. While it won't cover funeral costs, Medicare can help ensure you have one less thing to worry about when it comes to health care costs. 

Original Medicare can cover common treatment options as well as hospice care towards the end of life, and a Medicare Supplement plan can help ease your financial burden during this already stressful time by paying for certain Medicare deductibles, coinsurance, copays and more. That means you can focus on improving your health and spending time with your family, without worrying about the cost of treatment.

A licensed agent can help you decide on a Medicare option that works for you. Call today to speak with a licensed agent and compare the Medigap plans that are available where you live.

Compare Medigap plans in your area.

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1 Motley Fool. The Average Cost of a Funeral in 2020. https://www.fool.com/the-ascent/research/average-cost-funeral.

2 Debt.org. (May 22, 2020). Burial Funds & Programs That Help With Funeral Costs. https://www.debt.org/family/help-with-funeral-costs.

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