According to a report from the non-profit organization Feeding America, 5.5 million adults 60 and older are “food insecure,” meaning they lack access to enough quality foods. Many seniors and Medicare eligibles may be homebound due to medical conditions or income level, and they simply can’t get out to buy the food they need.
Meals on Wheels or Medicare meal delivery services may be able to help if you meet certain conditions.
What Is Meals on Wheels?
Meals on Wheels is best known as a food delivery service for homebound people who don’t otherwise have access to healthy food. Meals on Wheels has more than five thousand programs that operate across the entire United States. Those programs feed more than 2.4 million people every year.
Meals on Wheels programs may operate on a sliding payment scale, meaning that you won’t necessarily be turned away if you can’t afford the meals. Some local programs accept SNAP (food stamps). Every local Meals on Wheels program has a different set of payment guidelines, so it’s best to reach out your local program if you have questions.
Typically, program members receive one meal per business day. You may not be able to receive meals on weekends, holidays, or during inclement weather.
Meals on Wheels may provide additional benefits along with food delivery. The volunteers who deliver the meals can talk to the program members, which can provide an additional social benefit.
Meals on Wheels Locations
Meals on Wheels’ network of independently-operated programs provides 218 million meals all over the US. While each local program may provide different services based on your community’s needs, every program is dedicated to encouraging healthier lifestyles.
If you have questions about the services your local Meals on Wheels program provides, check out the Meals on Wheels America directory. Once you’re on the page, enter your zip code and hit “enter.”
That leads you to a page that lists contact information for the programs in your area.
Who Qualifies for Meals on Wheels?
Each local program may have different eligibility requirements, however, most homebound people who are 60 and older will qualify. People younger than 60 may also qualify if they are homebound, disabled, and they meet certain income requirements.
Most Meals on Wheels programs use CMS guidelines for determining whether you’re homebound. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) defines homebound as, “confined to the home due to illness or injury.”
You don’t necessarily have to be incapable of leaving; if it is difficult for you to leave, that counts. For example, if you can’t leave the house without a walker, and it’s extremely physically taxing when you leave, CMS may consider you to be homebound.
Does Medicare Cover Meals on Wheels?
Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) does not cover Meals on Wheels or any other home meal delivery service. However, certain private insurance plans called Medicare Advantage plans can offer meal delivery services if you meet certain qualifications.
How Do I Get Meals on Wheels With My Medicare Advantage Plan?
Most Medicare Advantage plans that offer Medicare meal delivery usually offer the service for a limited time. For example, if you’re discharged from a hospital or a skilled nursing facility, you may receive 10 pre-packaged frozen meals. Your plan may have limits on how many times per year you can receive the post-discharge Medicare meal delivery service.
Some Medicare Advantage plans let you choose meals based on any dietary restrictions you may have, including:
Another way Medicare Advantage plans can offer meal delivery services is if you have a chronic condition. Your plan may offer a set number of pre-packaged meals annually if you have special dietary needs.
Some plans will offer the meal delivery benefit more than once per year to people who have multiple conditions. Some Medicare Advantage plans may allow doctors to order more meals depending on your needs, too.
The licensed agents with Medicare Plan Finder can help you find a Medicare Advantage plan in your area that offers meal delivery services. We are dedicated to helping you find the best plan for your lifestyle and budget.
Does Medicaid Cover Meals on Wheels?
If you are homebound and eligible for Medicaid, your state may provide a waiver that pays for home-delivered meals. Medicaid will only cover Medicaid-approved meal delivery services such as Mom’s Meals and Homestyle Direct.
Each state has different rules about program eligibility and covered services.
For example, some states require nutrition counseling for Medicaid beneficiaries. Other states do not. If you have questions about your state’s requirements for Medicaid meal delivery services, click here to contact your state’s Medicaid office.
Each state has different policies regarding how you pay for home meal delivery. Some states pay as little as $3.00 per meal, and some pay as much as $8.00 per meal.
How Do I Get Meals on Wheels for My Mother/Relative?
Every local program has different rules about how to apply for Meals on Wheels, and who can apply. Contact your local program’s office to learn about specific requirements.
Some Meals on Wheels programs can cost about $7 per meal, but they accept contributions based on what the recipient can afford.
Even though your loved one’s local Meals on Wheels program may operate on a sliding payment scale or accept SNAP, a Medicare Advantage plan with meal delivery may be the best option for your relative to get vital nutrients after a hospital stay. You can only make Medicare decision’s on your relative’s behalf if you have durable power of attorney (POA).
Agents cannot legally discuss your loved one’s protected health information (PHI) without durable POA. Talk to your agent about your loved one’s needs. Your agent can help you determine if a Medicare Advantage plan with meal delivery is right for your relative.
What Is a Typical Meals on Wheels Menu?
Many Meals on Wheels programs provide one meal per day that meets ⅓ of the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommended daily nutritional value. Meals may contain a protein, a starch, a vegetable, and a dessert.
- Protein: Barbecue pork
- Starch: Red potatoes
- Vegetable: Spinach salad with French dressing
- Dessert: Banana bread
Can I Choose What I Get?
Some local Meals on Wheels programs give their recipients options for meals, such as a diabetes-friendly dessert or a vegetarian option. However, because each program is different, the Meals on Wheels program near you may not let you choose what you get.
How We Can Help With Medicare Meal Delivery
The right Medicare Advantage plan can help provide you with the nutrition you need after a hospital stay or if you have a chronic illness. Our licensed agents can help you find the best health insurance plan that fits your needs. Call 833-438-3676 or contact us here to learn more today.