Naturopathic medicine is becoming very common these days in the United States, and more and more seniors are seeking naturopathic treatment options for chronic illnesses and to improve their quality of life.

The philosophy behind naturopathic medicine is to use natural methods and remedies that help the body heal itself. It focuses on the entire body, mind, and spirit to treat the cause of the problem, and not only the symptoms that accompany it.

Naturopathic medicine comes in many different forms. Acupuncture, message therapy, exercise, herbal treatments, and even nutrition therapies. But, the only type of naturopathic medicine that may be covered by your Medicare benefits is osteopathic medicine.

Osteopathic medicine focuses on all the body’s systems and how they work together to the heal the body as a whole. Doctors who practice osteopathic medicine are fully licensed physicians who practice contemporary medicine as well as using osteopathic methods for some treatments. Doctors of osteopathy (DOs), train as medical doctors and study osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) which they may use along with conventional surgeries and medicines. In this country, 8.5 percent of all licensed physicians are Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine.

If you have considered trying alternative forms of medicine and feel osteopathy might be a good option, your Medicare benefits may cover the cost because osteopathic doctors are licensed physicians.

How Does Medicare Cover Visits to Doctors of Osteopathy?
Medicare recipients who have coverage with Medicare Part B (medical insurance) or Medicare Advantage (Part C) policies have coverage for medically necessary outpatient medical care. This includes visits to licensed health care providers who accept Medicare assignment, such as Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and other licensed physicians.

Your Medicare benefits cover 80 percent of the Medicare-approved cost for care given by a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. You are responsible for 20 percent of the approved cost.

To be eligible for Medicare coverage of a doctor’s visit, the following criteria must apply:

• The care you receive must be medically necessary. Your health care provider must authorize the visit, and Medicare must also agree that this care is medically necessary.
• The care must be given by a provider who accepts Medicare assignment.

For Medicare recipients who have coverage with a Medicare Advantage (Part C) plan, there may be differences in your coverage allowances. Part C plans are required to cover whatever Original Medicare Parts A and B cover, but your plan may have different co-payment requirements in regards to osteopathic medicine. Check with a licensed agent representing your Medicare Advantage provider before moving forward with this type of medical care just to be sure.

What is Osteopathy?

The belief behind the practice of osteopathic medicine is to improve a person’s general health by manipulating and strengthening the nervous, circulatory, and lymphatic systems. Osteopathic doctors use their hands to diagnose and treat their patients by using stretching and resistance techniques, and by applying pressure through massage.

This form of medicine is a complementary therapy used together with conventional treatments. Osteopathy is a drug-free and non-invasive form of medicine used to treat the following conditions:

• Arthritis
• Back pain
• Headache
• Tendonitis
• Digestive problems
• Posture abnormalities
• Problems with sleep
• Lymphatic problems

Visiting an osteopath may not be right for everyone, but if your primary care provider suggests it, you can consider your options.

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