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About Medicare Death Benefits

by Ashley Adams-Mott
Death benefits from Medicare help cover health expenses for the deceased.

In certain situations, both Medicare and Social Security provide funds to the estate of a deceased. Since Medicare provides health and hospitalization insurance to individuals over age 65, any funds paid out after an enrolled person's death cover a portion of final medical expenses. By contrast, Social Security issues a fixed cash payment to a qualified spouse or dependent child.

Medical Bill Payments

If your loved one passes away with unpaid medical expenses, Medicare steps in to help pay the health care costs under the terms of the insurance plan. Medicare pays 80 percent of the costs for approved care while the recipient's estate picks up the 20 percent patient co-payment. For example, Medicare would pay $8,000 of final medical bills for a recipient with $10,000 in total approved costs. The estate must pay the remaining $2,000.

Reimbursement for Cash Payments for Medical Services

Medicare offers reimbursement, up to the 80 percent limit, for covered health services received by a person enrolled in Medicare and paid for in cash. If the individual dies with non-reimbursed expenses, the estate may file a claim to receive the funds. Likewise, a child or spouse who paid for expenses out-of-pocket can file a claim separate from the estate's claim.

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Lump-sum Cash Payment

Excluding the disabled, Medicare enrollees qualify for Social Security’s lump-sum death benefit based on the accumulated working record – ten years of covered employment -- that determines eligibility for both Social Security and Medicare. The one-time death benefit provides $255 to an eligible family member, such as a surviving spouse or dependent child, as of May 2013. If your deceased spouse or parent was too young for Medicare enrollment, the Social Security death benefit may still be claimed as long as a satisfactory working record was accumulated.

Additional Considerations

Claiming death benefits from Social Security and reimbursements from Medicare require identifying information for both the claimant and the original beneficiary of the services. This information includes your name and social security number and the name, social security number, date of birth, date of death, place of death and gender of the deceased. You must also answer select questions about the deceased's Social Security benefits and marriage history, when applicable. Be prepared to present a death certificate, tax filing records for the most recent year and any military discharge papers belonging to the deceased.

About the Author

Ashley Mott has 12 years of small business management experience and a BSBA in accounting from Columbia. She is a full-time government and public safety reporter for Gannett.

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