Does Medicare Cover Cancer Treatments?

by David Bynon, last updated

If you have received a cancer diagnosis, you may be concerned about which cancer treatments, supplies, services, and prescription drugs Medicare covers. Take a breath and relax because the most common treatments, services, and medications are covered. In this MedicareWire article, we’ll explain how Medicare covers cancer treatment.

Key Takeaways

  • Cancer is a disease that causes cells to mutate uncontrollably, inhibiting their ability to function properly.
  • Medicare Part A will cover cancer treatments and services while you are admitted to an inpatient facility.
  • Medicare Part B covers outpatient cancer treatments, services, medical supplies, and certain medications.
  • Medicare covers many forms of cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, tumor excisions, and radiation therapy.
  • Medicaid will help with the costs of certain services that Medicare does not cover.
  • Medicare Part D plans will cover most of your prescription drug needs for cancer treatments.
  • A Medicare Advantage plan will cover the same services as Part A and Part B but may limit their services to in-network providers.
  • Medigap policies can help with the out-of-pocket costs for cancer treatments after Medicare has provided coverage.

What Is Cancer?

Cancer is a genetic disease that causes your body’s cells to rapidly divide and infect other cells around them, forming abnormal lumps of cancerous tissue called tumors. Cancerous cells can spread infect tissues in organs throughout the body, causing them to fail in their function and be unable to fight off otherwise simple infections. Symptoms that can indicate the presence of cancer, “Cancer: Symptoms & Causes“, Accessed December 6, 2021

  • Fatigue
  • Lump or area of thickening that can be felt under the skin
  • Weight changes, including unintended loss or gain
  • Skin changes, such as yellowing, darkening or redness of the skin, sores that won’t heal, or changes to existing moles
  • Changes in bowel or bladder habits
  • Persistent cough or trouble breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Hoarseness
  • Persistent indigestion or discomfort after eating
  • Persistent, unexplained muscle or joint pain
  • Persistent, unexplained fevers or night sweats
  • Unexplained bleeding or bruising

If you are diagnosed with cancer, the doctor will determine how far it has progressed from level 0 to level 4, with 4 being the most advanced cancer stage. Different levels of cancer will require different treatments. Fortunately, Medicare covers most of the well-known methods of cancer, “Cancer: Diagnosis & Treatment“, Accessed December 6, 2021

How Does Medicare Cover Cancer Treatments?

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers cancer treatments for its beneficiaries. However, each part covers different kinds of treatment. Listed below are the cancer treatment services that are covered by Medicare Part A and Part B.

Medicare Part A, “Medicare Coverage of Cancer Treatment Services“, Accessed December 6, 2021

  • Inpatient hospital stays, including cancer treatments you get while you’re an inpatient in the hospital.
  • Skilled nursing facility care (following a 3-day related hospital stay).
  • Home health care (like rehabilitation services for physical therapy, speech-language pathology therapy, occupational therapy, or skilled nursing care).
  • Hospice care.
  • Blood.
  • Some costs of clinical research studies while you’re an inpatient in the hospital.
  • Surgically implanted breast prostheses after a mastectomy if the surgery takes place in an inpatient setting.

Medicare Part B, “Medicare Coverage of Cancer Treatment Services“, Accessed December 6, 2021

  • Doctors’ visits.
  • Chemotherapy drugs through the vein in an outpatient clinic or a doctor’s office.
  • Some oral chemotherapy treatments.
  • Radiation treatments given in an outpatient clinic.
  • Diagnostic tests like X-rays and CT scans.
  • Durable medical equipment (DME) like wheelchairs and walkers.
  • Outpatient surgeries.
  • Mental health services, including services that are usually provided outside a hospital (like in a clinic, doctor’s office, or therapist’s office) and services provided in a hospital’s outpatient department.
  • Nutritional counseling if you have diabetes or kidney disease.
  • Certain preventive and screening services.
  • Enteral nutrition equipment (feeding pump) as DME that your doctor prescribes for use in your home, and certain nutrients if you can’t absorb nutrition through your intestinal tract or you can’t take food by mouth.
  • Some costs of clinical research studies while you’re an outpatient.
  • Breast prostheses (external breast prostheses, including a post-surgical bra) after a mastectomy. Part B covers surgically implanted breast prostheses after a mastectomy if the surgery takes place in an outpatient setting.
  • In some cases, a second opinion for surgery that isn’t an emergency, and a third opinion if the first and second opinions are different.

Copayments, coinsurance, or deductibles may apply for each service. To find out how they charge for a specific test, item, or service, speak with your health care, “Medicare Coverage of Cancer Treatment Services“, Accessed December 6, 2021

Does Medicare Cover Chemotherapy?

Both Medicare Part A and Part B will cover chemotherapy treatment. If you are an inpatient, Part A covers your chemotherapy. However, if you receive chemotherapy in an outpatient setting, it’s covered by Part, “Chemotherapy“, Accessed December 6, 2021

If you get your chemotherapy treatment in an outpatient clinic or your doctor’s office, you pay a copayment, and Medicare Part B picks up the rest. However, if your chemotherapy treatment is given in a hospital outpatient clinic, you pay a 20 percent copayment, “Chemotherapy“, Accessed December 6, 2021 If you have a Medicare supplement policy that covers the Part B coinsurance, it will pay your out-of-pocket costs.

Does Medicare Cover Other Cancer Treatments?

Absolutely. Medicare covers the following treatments if your doctor considers them medically necessary for your condition:

Do Medicare Advantage Plans Cover Cancer Treatment?

Medicare Advantage plans are an all-in-one alternative to Original Medicare. These bundled plans include Part A, Part B, and usually Part D. If you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan your plan must give you at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, but it may have different rules and costs. Specifically, most plans require you to get a referral to see a specialist, such as an oncologist. And, what you pay out-of-pocket for both inpatient and outpatient treatment will be, “How do Medicare Advantage Plans work?“, Accessed December 6, 2021

What Doesn’t Medicare Cover for Cancer Treatments?

While Medicare provides coverage for many cancer treatments and services, it does not cover everything. Here are some services that are not covered by Medicare Part A or Part, “Medicare Coverage of Cancer Treatment Services“, Accessed December 6, 2021

  • Room and board in assisted living facilities.
  • Adult daycare.
  • Long-term nursing home care.
  • Medical food or nutritional supplements (except enteral nutrition equipment).
  • Services that help you with activities of daily living (like bathing and eating) that don’t require skilled care.

With that said, Medicaid will help with the costs for these services for beneficiaries with qualifying, “Nursing Facilities“, Accessed December 6, 2021.

Does Medicare Cover Cancer Treatment Medications?

A Medicare Part D plan will cover most of your prescription drugs that aren’t covered by Part B, such as anti-nausea drugs and pain medication while undergoing chemotherapy. When selecting a Part D plan in your area, it will be important to check the plan’s formulary to see the cost of your chemotherapy drugs with that plan. Depending on the Part D plan, members may pay an annual deductible, before the plan begins paying its share, as well as a, “What Medicare Part D drug plans cover“, Accessed December 6, 2021.


Cancer can be a devastating disease, not only for your health but also for your funds. Fortunately, Medicare can help cushion the financial impact while you receive the treatments and services you need. Consult with your doctor, they will let you know where your condition is at and help you find the best treatment option for the best price with Medicare.

If you have additional questions about what Medicare will cover for your cancer treatment, you can speak with a Medicare professional at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227). TTY users can call 1-877-486-2048.


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