Does Medicare Cover Transportation?
Transportation by ambulance can be an expensive aspect of health care. Thankfully, Medicare does cover transportation by paying for a portion of ambulance costs.
Even if Medicare covers your ambulance transportation, you will likely have to pay some out-of-pocket costs such as Medicare deductibles and copays.
A Medicare Supplement (Medigap) plan may help cover your out-of-pocket Medicare transportation costs.
What Transportation Does Medicare Cover?
If you have Medicare Part B, you are covered for ambulance services to or from a:
Critical access hospital (CAH)
Skilled nursing facility (SNF)
Medicare covers this transportation only if other methods of transportation could pose a danger to your health. In these cases, Medicare covers ambulance transportation to the closest appropriate medical facility that is equipped to provide the necessary care.
If you decide to go to another facility that's further away, Medicare will only cover the cost you would have incurred had you traveled to the nearest facility.
If the closest facility is ill-equipped to handle your care, Medicare will pay a share of ambulance costs for travel to the next-closest facility that can treat you.
Medicare May Cover Air Transit and Non-Emergency Transportation in Some Cases
Medicare might cover emergency transportation by aircraft if:
Ground transportation can’t easily reach you
Either long distance or other ground-transportation obstacles, like busy traffic, would keep you from getting the care you need
Medicare covers non-emergency ambulance transportation if your doctor signs paperwork that states it is medically necessary.
Some Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans may also cover non-emergency transportation for things like trips to your doctor's office. Not all Medicare Advantage plans offer this benefit, so be sure to ask your plan carrier.
How Much Does Transportation Cost With Medicare?
If you have Medicare Part B, you typically pay 20 percent of the Medicare-approved costs of ambulance services, and Medicare pays 80 percent. This is known as your Part B coinsurance.
Keep in mind that Medicare will not begin paying its share until your Part B deductible is met. In 2019, the Part B deductible is $185 per year.
If you're concerned about these out-of-pocket costs, Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) can help. These private plans are designed to help pay for some of Original Medicare's deductibles, copayments and coinsurance.
Learn more about Medicare coverage of common procedures
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Christian Worstell is a health care and policy writer for MedicareSupplement.com. He has written hundreds of articles helping people better understand their Medicare coverage options.