5 Fitness and Wellness Programs Covered by Medicare

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Staying fit can be a struggle for adults at any age. And when you start adding in the costs of exercise equipment, gym memberships and nutritional food, everyday health seems to come at a premium cost. Luckily, for older adults with Medicare coverage, some of those costs may be covered by their insurance plan.

Here's a look at three fitness programs and two wellness services that may be covered by your Medicare Part B or C plans.

3 Senior Fitness Programs Covered by Medicare

"Older adults looking for fitness programs have several options available through their supplemental Medicare plan, " says Lisa Harris, a registered dietitian and author of “Building Your Enduring Fitness: Age-Defying Strategies That Boost Your Vitality.”

Original Medicare coverage does not include these benefits, though. You'll need to have either a Medicare supplemental plan (sometimes called a Medigap plan) or a Medicare Advantage or similar plan.

1. SilverSneakers

SilverSneakers is perhaps the most well-known and popular plan, and has been around for 25 years. The program involves a gym membership, so you're not limited to one or two classes or types of exercise, and you can find SilverSneakers programs in 14,000 locations across the U.S.

Harris says that the program provides "free fitness training at gyms and other exercise facilities, community locations, and even at home. Programs fit all interests and fitness levels with classes in strength training, Zumba, yoga, water-based programs and others. Seniors can contact the customer service department of their supplemental insurance plan to find the covered program in their area."

SilverSneakers members are allowed full access to the gyms in question, so if the gym you attend via your benefit and program membership has exercise equipment or a pool, you’ll have access to all of those fitness tools.

2. Silver&Fit

The Silver&Fit program is similar to SilverSneakers, says Harris. It offers a lot of the same options and is covered under supplemental Medicare policies.

You don't have to have a supplemental Medicare policy to join in on the action, though. As with SilverSneakers, Silver&Fit offers membership to any qualifying senior for as low as $50 per year. You can also opt for a Home Fitness Program if you can't get to the gym; it’s covered by Medicare or offered for as low as $10 per year and lets you choose from two home fitness kits.

Costs and program specifics may vary by location, and Silver&Fit programs are often offered by local YMCAs. Harris says to contact customer service for your supplemental Medicare plan to find out if Silver&Fit is covered.

  1. SeniorPHIT SeniorPHIT is a Personal Health Improvement Training Program covered by Medicare supplemental plans and offered in conjunction with a fitness program sponsored by health insurer Aetna. The program is typically covered by Aetna Medicare Group, HMO and PPO plans, so call your Medicare benefits customer service line to find out if this fitness option is available to you.

The program includes

  • Membership at local fitness centers that participate with the program
  • At-home fitness supplies, including a DVD, resistance bands and a pedometer
  • Online wellness tools and programs
  • Discounts on select related products

Wellness Services Covered by Medicare

In certain circumstances, your Medicare coverage may kick in to pay for the costs of other wellness programs when they are deemed medically necessary. While coverage of senior fitness programs are a benefit everyone with applicable supplemental plans may use, these other wellness services require certain conditions or diagnoses, so make sure to speak with your healthcare provider about what options might be right for you and whether they are covered by insurance.

Nutritional Therapy

For patients with diabetes, Medicare Part B covers nutritional services provided by a registered dietitian or certified nutritionist. The services typically include some classroom-based or individual nutrition counseling to help those with diabetes manage their illness through proper diet.

Medicare Part C plans may cover nutritional services for other diagnoses, though you may pay a copay for these services.

Physical or Occupational Therapy

Physical or occupational therapy that’s medically necessary is covered under Medicare Part B. While many seniors may think PT and OT is limited to a few in-office appointments following a surgery, the treatment options are actually much wider.

These therapies may be deemed medically necessary before or after surgery, after an injury or simply as part of a regimen to treat lost functionality from a chronic illness. And some of these therapies actually feel like exercise programs -- Medicare pays for aquatic exercise therapy as part of medically necessary PT treatment, for example.

How to Find Out if Services Are Covered

If you're interested in staying fit and healthy and want to find out more about how your Medicare coverage can play a role in that journey, begin by either talking to your medical professional about options or calling your Medicare plan.

Remember, your original Medicare A plan doesn't typically cover any of these services. If you're interested in a program like SilverSneakers, you'll need to call your supplemental plan. You can find the customer service number on the back of your card or on any brochures or paperwork provided to you by the plan.

Sarah Stasik

Sarah Stasik is a full-time freelance writer and project manager with a background in healthcare revenue cycle management. See full bio

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