The Legal Rights of Indigent People for a Burial in Pennsylvania

By Maia Adams

The state of Pennsylvania provides assistance with burial costs of legally eligible indigent people. Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare (DPW) will pay for burial and cremation services through a program funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and administered by local county assistance offices.


To qualify for assistance with burial expenses of an indigent, certain criteria must be met. The deceased individual must not have had sufficient resources to meet the cost of burial. Requests will be honored for cash assistance recipients or former cash recipients who lost eligibility due to a final hospitalization which ended in death. Members of a recipient's family can also qualify if they meet criteria outlined in the Pennsylvania Code. Individuals who do not meet any of these requirements cannot qualify for burial assistance.


A request for burial payment may be made orally or in writing. Requests are normally accepted only when made before burial. The request for payment must be made by a relative, a legal guardian, a friend or a representative of certain qualifying organizations. Qualifying institutions consist of state institutions, fraternal societies to which the recipient belonged or religious organizations. Initial requests will not be accepted from a funeral director.

Funeral Directors

Payment for burial is made to funeral directors who are enrolled with the Office of Medical Assistance Programs (OMAP). Payment cannot be made to non-participating funeral directors. Funeral directors may request OMAP enrollment information by calling 1-800-537-8862 and selecting Option 1. They may also request information in writing from:

Department of Public Welfare

Office of Medical Assistance Programs

DPW Enrollment

P.O. Box 8045

Harrisburg, PA 17105-2675


DPW's maximum allowable payment for burial is $750. To receive the full payment, the recipient must not have resources or donations exceeding $750. DPW will not pay for burial at all if the recipient has resources exceeding $1,500. DPW's payment is made directly to the funeral director. The DPW burial payment plus donations and resources reported by the funeral director must total the entire bill for burial services. The funeral director may not accept payment from any other source to supplement the burial payment.

About the Author

Based in rural Pennsylvania, Maia Adams has been a freelance writer and blogger since 2010. As a trainer for a public service agency, Adams has expertise in health insurance and social services. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Cedar Crest College.

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