Definition of “Homebound” Clarified

October 4, 2004

Many are covered by Medicare for home health services. To receive such services, each beneficiary must: 1. Require skilled nursing care on a periodic basis, physical or speech therapy or need to maintain occupational services after skilled nursing or therapy has stopped; 2. Be under the care plan of a physician; 3. Receive services from a Medicare certified home health agency; and 4. Be confined to the home(“homebound”). 42 U.S.C. Sections 1395f(a) and 1395n(a).

Section 507 of the Medicare, Medicaid and SHIP Benefits Improvement Act of 2000 (BIPA) has recently clarified that certain absences from the home by a beneficiary receiving Medicare home health care benefits are permissible. Moreover, beneficiaries may continue to receive such services when they need to leave the home, specifically for absences associated with the need for “therapeutic, psychosocial, or medical treatment in an adult daycare program that is lecensed and certified by a State, or accredited, to furnish adult day-care services in the State.

BIPA has also allowed for the attendance of religious services without disqualifying the person from Medicare home health care. In fact, BIPA has provided that an absence from home resulting from the attendance of a religious service “shall be deemed to be an absence of infrequent or short duration” thereby classifying the person as homebound to receive continued Medicare home health benefits.

[HCFA has provided “Q & As” to offer guidance to beneficiaries and professionals associated with Medicare home health services. The “Q & As” address the definition of “homebound” and clarify definitions of therpeutic services, psychosocial services, the specifics regarding state licensing and certification.] The Q & A’s are available on the websites of HCFA and Medicare at and
Source: The National Senior Citizens Law Center in the Washington Weekly – May 2, 2001. Volume XXVII No. 21.