Is There a Medicare Death Benefit to Cover Funeral Expenses?
Written by: Rachael Zimlich, RN, BSN
Reviewed by: Brett Braithwaite, Licensed Insurance Agent
Medicare does not cover funeral expenses. Medicare only covers inpatient and outpatient medical care costs for living beneficiaries.
You may be able to find financial assistance for funeral expenses from the Social Security Administration and other organizations such as faith and community organizations.
You have some protections as a consumer. You might not get help paying for funeral costs, but the federal government does set some rules that promote fair pricing and transparency.
While it won’t be enough to cover average funeral costs, your surviving spouse or child will receive a $255 lump-sum death benefit upon your death. Qualifying spouses and children also can receive Social Security benefits from their departed loved one.
Social Security Lump-Sum Death Benefit
Does Medicare cover funeral expenses ?
No, there is no Medicare death benefit. Medicare is a health insurance program that is run by the federal government to help you cover the costs of your healthcare when you’re 65 and older, or have certain disabilities. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as Medicare funeral assistance.
While Medicare doesn’t offer funeral benefits, the Social Security Administration offers a small bit of aid through a Special Lump-Sum Death Payment of $255 to a surviving spouse or child of the beneficiary.
Some survivors may also be entitled to ongoing survivors benefits from the Social Security Administration, but generally this benefit is limited to the following:
- Widows or widowers who are 60 and older
- Widows or widowers with disabilities who are 50 and older
- Widows or widowers of any age who are caring for a child under age 16, or disabled
- A surviving divorced spouse (in some cases)
- The unmarried child of the deceased if they are under 18, or over 18 with disabilities that began before the age of 22
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What Are Typical Final Expense and Funeral Costs?
While your loved ones do get a $255 lump sum from the Social Security Administration that can be used toward your final expenses, this won’t make much of a dent when you consider the cost of a funeral in the United States.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a basic funeral in 2021 was $7,848. This does not include a burial vault — something that is required by many cemeteries — grave monuments or markers, an obituary, and other extras. That price tag does include:
- Transfer of remains to the funeral home
- Use of facilities for viewing and ceremonies
- Metal casket
With a vault included, the median price jumps to $9,420, but this also does not include additional costs for markers, monuments, obituaries, and more. The cost of cremation is a bit less; roughly $6,970 with a funeral viewing service included.
Does Medicare cover final expenses?
Medicare itself will not cover any final or funeral costs. Medicare is a federal healthcare program that provides coverage for inpatient and outpatient costs only while you are living. However, you may choose while enrolled in Medicare to participate in a Medical Savings Account. With this program, you choose a plan that deposits funds into a special account that you can use only toward qualifying medical expenses. This can save you on out-of-pocket costs. If you die with funds in your account, these funds will be released to your designated beneficiary — if your designated beneficiary is someone other than your spouse. In this case, those taxable funds may then be used toward any funeral expenses. If your spouse is your beneficiary, it will become their MSA upon your death.
Reporting a Medicare Beneficiary's Death
When a Medicare beneficiary dies, Medicare and the Social Security Administration must be notified. In many cases, this can be done by the funeral home. Just make sure they have the Social Security number of the deceased and ask them to make the report.
If you choose to report the death of a loved one, it cannot be done online. You will need to call the Social Security Administration at 1-800-772-1213, or visit a local Social Security office. You will only need to make the call once to Social Security — Medicare will receive the information, too.
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Planning for Final Expenses
At this point, at least you’re not still asking, “Does Medicare pay for funeral expenses ?” Funeral expenses can add up quickly, and knowing ahead of time that Medicare doesn’t include funeral benefits can keep those costs from falling on your loved ones. And though there is no federal benefit that covers these costs, the federal government does offer some protection from price gouging, as well as tools to help you plan for the inevitable.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist that outlines what types of funeral services are required, what is optional, and how to plan.
Some examples of required costs can include:
- Securing necessary permits
- Obtaining copies of the death certificate
- Housing the remains
- Coordinating with a cemetery or crematory
Optional costs may include:
- Viewing services
- Ceremonial costs
- Caskets or urns
Optional costs can add up quickly — a casket alone can cost between $2,000 and $10,000. The FTC requires funeral homes to be transparent with all costs and fees and provide a full list of offerings and costs prior to showing any products such as caskets. The FTC even offers a checklist to use during your meetings with funeral homes to help guide you through your decision-making process.
You may also want to check with local churches, religious groups and community organizations that may offer assistance with funeral planning and final expenses. Most funeral homes offer advanced planning options that can allow you to prepay for a funeral over time before your death. There is also a newer program, from the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA), that provides funeral assistance for deaths related to the COVID-19 pandemic.