Dementia is a decline in mental capacity that becomes severe enough to hinder a person’s ability to function. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one-third of Americans die with some form of dementia.
Medicare Parts A and B (Original Medicare) will cover everything that’s medically necessary for dementia patients, but many services won’t be covered.
While Original Medicare dementia care is limited, certain Medicare Advantage plans offer coverage for more services that can include unexpected offerings like meal delivery.
Medicare Coverage for Dementia Patients Clarified
Medicare will cover services that your doctor deems medically necessary. Medicare Part A covers inpatient hospital care, and Medicare Part B covers outpatient care and medical expenses such as doctors’ appointment costs.
Original Medicare will pay for the first 100 days of care in a skilled nursing facility (there may be some associated fees), and some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may include long-term care coverage.
Private insurance companies offer Medicare Advantage plans, so they have the freedom to cover benefits Original Medicare doesn’t. Medicare Part D or certain Medicare Part C plans cover prescription drugs such as cholinesterase inhibitors that can temporarily improve symptoms of dementia.
Medicare Supplements (Medigap) plans can help cover the expenses that Original Medicare does not. Unlike Medicare Advantage plans, Medigap plans do not cover medical expenses, but they cover financial items such as Part A and B coinsurance and copayments. Even though Medigap and Medicare Advantage are two different types of plans, you cannot enroll in both at the same time.
Medicare and Dementia Testing
Medicare Part B covers cognitive testing for dementia during annual wellness visits. A doctor may decide to perform the test for patients who are experiencing memory loss.
The test consists of about 30 questions like, “What year is this?” to assess the patient’s memory and awareness. The test can be used as a baseline evaluation for future wellness visits and can be a valuable tool for catching dementia early.
Medicare Testing for Alzheimer’s
Dementia is a symptom that can result from many different diseases. Alzheimer’s disease is just one cause of dementia. The risk of developing Alzheimer’s increases with age and with a family history of Alzheimer’s.
There is a correlation between genes called apolipoprotein E (APOE) and Alzheimer’s, but those genes do not necessarily cause the disease. Medicare will not cover genetic testing for APOE genes.
Dementia as a SEP-Qualifying Condition
Medicare eligibles with dementia also qualify for specific Medicare Advantage plans called Chronic Special Needs Plans (CSNPs). These health insurance plans involve coordination and communication between the patient’s entire medical team to help ensure the patient gets the best possible care.
The best way to sort through the thousands of plans available and find the right CSNP for you is enlisting the help of a qualified professional by contacting us here.
If you’re diagnosed with dementia and already enrolled in Medicare Parts A and B, you will qualify for the Special Enrollment Period (SEP). The SEP allows you to enroll in new Medicare coverage or make changes to your existing CSNP whenever you need to instead of having to wait for certain times of the year.
Early Signs and Symptoms of Dementia
Dementia can have a variety symptoms depending on the cause. However, some common signs symptoms include:
- Loss of memory
- Difficulty finding the right words during conversation
- Getting lost while driving to and from familiar places
- Difficulty with logical reasoning or solving problems
- Difficulty with completing complex tasks
- Difficulty with planning and organizing day-to-day activities
- Difficulty with muscular coordination and motor functions
- Being confused or disoriented
- Changes in personality
- Inappropriate or irrational behavior
Does Medicare Cover Memory Care?
Memory care is a specific type of long-term care for people with dementia. Original Medicare does not cover assisted living facilities. However, certain Medicare Part C plans may include coverage for Medicare dementia care services such as adult day care or help to get dressed or to bathe.
Medicare will not cover skilled nursing home stays for longer than 100 days, and even the most comprehensive Medigap plan won’t cover long-term care. However, Medicare will cover medical services while the patient lives at a nursing home.
How to Find Memory Care
Medicare.gov has a tool to find nursing homes that accept Medicare for medical services. To get started, click here. Not all of these facilities have dedicated memory care teams, so you’ll need to contact them to verify their services.
Once you’re on the nursing home finder tool page, enter your zip code as shown below in red. We used 37209, which is our corporate headquarters’ zip code in Nashville, Tennessee. Then click “Search,” shown in yellow.
Then you’ll reach a list of nursing homes in your area. The nursing home finder tool lets you sort facilities by star rating, which is based on a scale of one to five.
Basically, the higher the rating, the better the care the facility provides. For demonstration purposes, we only chose to see homes that have a five-star rating (shown below in red) and that take Medicare insurance (in green.)
You may have to contact more than one facility to find the right one for you. Ask about costs and how they help patients with dementia. If one seems like it may be a good fit, ask to tour the home to really get a feel for it.
Does Medicare Pay for Home Health Care for Dementia Patients?
Medicare Dementia Hospice Criteria
In order for Medicare to cover hospice care, your doctor must first document that you have less than six months to live. You or your durable power of attorney must sign documents indicating that you agree to accept care for comfort, and that you waive other Medicare benefits.
Resources for Families
Families of dementia patients have access to a wide variety of resources to help them cope. The first step for helping your loved ones is to educate yourself about the disease and to learn how you can be the most supportive.
You should also look into support groups for your family so they can find like-minded people who are having similar experiences. Dementia should not be dealt with alone.
You should consider important things such as who will have the power of attorney and make financial decisions for the patient at the end of his or her life. If you haven’t enrolled in a life or a final expense insurance policy, you should consider doing so now.
We Can Help You Find Medicare Coverage for Dementia
Dementia is difficult for everyone involved. If you or a loved one has dementia, we can help you navigate Medicare dementia care and find a Chronic Special Needs Plan that’s right for you. Set up a no-obligation appointment with a licensed agent by calling 833-438-3676 or contacting us here today.
This post was originally published on May 7, 2019, and updated on October 7, 2019.