How Long Does Medicare Cover Care in a Skilled Nursing Facility?

19 Comments

If your loved one needs care in a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF), either for a short-term rehabilitation, or a long-term stay, it is crucial to know what Medicare covers and what you will need to pay for these services.

First and foremost, the skilled nursing facility you choose must be certified by Medicare.

Patient Criteria for Medicare Coverage of a SNF Stay

Medicare will cover skilled care only if all of the following are met:

  1. You have Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) and have days left in your benefit period available to use.
  2. You have a qualifying hospital stay. This means an inpatient hospital stay of 3 consecutive days or more, starting with the day the hospital admits you as an inpatient, but not including the day you leave the hospital. You must enter the Skilled Nursing Facility within a short period of time (generally 30 days) of leaving the hospital. After you leave skilled nursing, if you re-enter the same or another SNF within 30 days, you may not need another 3-day qualifying hospital stay to get additional SNF benefits. This is also true if you stop getting skilled care while in the SNF and then start getting skilled care again within 30 days.
  3. Your doctor has ordered the services you need for SNF care, which requires the skills of professional personnel such as registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists or audiologists.
  4. You require the skilled care on a daily basis and the services must be ones that can only be provided in a SNF on an inpatient basis. If you are in a SNF for skilled rehabilitation services only, your care is considered daily care even if the therapy services are offered just 5 or 6 days a week.
  5. You need these skilled services for a medical condition that was treated during a qualifying 3-day hospital stay, or started while you were getting SNF care for a medical condition that was treated during a qualifying 3-day hospital stay. For example, if you are in a SNF because you broke your hip and then have a stroke, Medicare may cover rehabilitation services for the stroke, even if you no longer need rehabilitation for your hip.
  6. The skilled services must be reasonable and necessary for the diagnosis or treatment of your condition.

How Long will Medicare Pay for a Stay in a Skilled Nursing Facility?

The amount Medicare covers depends on how long you stay in the SNF. Here is a breakdown of Medicare coverage:

  • Days 1 – 20
    Medicare pays the full cost for each benefit period.
  • Days 21 – 100
    Medicare pays all but a daily coinsurance. In 2017, it is $164.50 coinsurance per day.
  • After 100 days
    Medicare provides no coverage after 100 days.

If you have a Medigap policy or are in a Medicare Advantage Plan, you may have additional coverage.

There are other ways to get help paying for skilled care and other healthcare costs. If your income and resources are limited, you may be able to get help to pay for skilled and/or custodial care, or other health care costs. If you qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid, most health care costs are covered. You may also qualify for the Medicaid nursing home benefit or the Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). Call your State Medical Assistance (Medicaid) Office for more information. Or read Medicare's Information, Eligibility and Entitlement manual online.


Information compiled from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Medicare.gov websites.

You May Also Like

Free AgingCare Guides

Get the latest care advice and articles delivered to your inbox!

19 Comments

You should appeal the decision with help from the facility.
Hi, very useful information provided on this article. My friends father had first hospitalization for 7days , discharged to SNF and stayed for about 10 days, then went back and currently remain in the hospital, my friend want his dad go back to the same SNF after second hospitalization. How to count the first 20days of medicare full coverage if his Dad go back to the same SNF? Is it will start over for another 20days or he only has 10days of medicare full coverage?
No, Pam, you are incorrect. It will be 10 days since their father was not treatment free for 60 days from the discharge of the original 10 day stay.