Ultraviolet light provides a range of benefits to the body, both physically and mentally. This type of light, often referred to simply as UV light, is emitted from the sun and assists in everything from the production and processing of vitamin D to healing skin conditions like psoriasis. Many people also find that insufficient exposure to UV light can lead to depression, sometimes resulting in seasonal affective disorder. As a result of the benefits of UV light, therapies have been developed to provide additional UV light to individuals in order to trigger certain positive responses.
Of course, too much UV light can be harmful, so UV therapy must be measured and controlled. Excessive ultraviolet light exposure contributes to the potential for developing skin cancer, and this can be a serious concern for individuals who use both natural and artificial UV light for tanning. This is also why it’s important to work with a healthcare provider to develop a plan of action when utilizing UV light for therapy to ensure that safety precautions are followed.
Does Medicare Cover UV Light Therapy?
Medicare insurance stipulates that all covered expenses must be deemed medically necessary. This usually means that any medical treatment that is used to enhance a person’s appearance, such as in the example of UV light for tanning, will not be covered. The exception is if the treatment is prescribed for a medically necessary reason and a cosmetic benefit happens to be a side effect. As such, Medicare coverage will not pay for UV light therapy if the main purpose of the therapy is to tan the skin to improve one’s appearance.
With this stated, Medicare insurance may pay for UV light therapy in cases where an individual has been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder. This is because the depression that comes along with seasonal affective disorder can be harmful to mental and physical health, and in severe cases, it can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. If UV light therapy is prescribed to treat seasonal affective disorder, it is likely that Medicare will require the patient to try other treatments first, including traditional prescription medications that treat depression and other mood disorders.
If Medicare does cover the cost of UV light therapy due to a medical necessity, the cost will typically fall under Medicare Part B. This is the part of Medicare benefits that covers durable medical equipment as well as outpatient procedures. Since UV light therapy is either carried out at home using a light panel to treat mood disorders or in a clinical setting, then the outpatient benefit would apply as the panel would be considered durable medical equipment.
If UV light therapy were to be carried out in a hospital or skilled nursing facility, then Medicare coverage under Part A would apply. Medicare Part D covers prescription medications, so it would not apply in any UV light therapy situation that only utilizes equipment for emitting ultraviolet rays.
UV Light Found Outdoors as a Treatment Alternative
Although most ultraviolet light is filtered out by Earth’s atmosphere, the sun is still the most powerful generator of UV light. This means that people in need of ultraviolet light therapy may find it beneficial to spend additional time outdoors. Unfortunately, as mentioned above, UV light can be harmful during prolonged or frequent exposure. This is why you need to discuss your needs with your physician and monitor your skin to check for the development of skin cancer if you choose to take advantage of natural UV light as an alternative to the use of UV light panels.
Additionally, it’s believed that the reason for the development of seasonal affective disorder and psoriasis during the winter months is a lack of exposure to UV light. This occurs because people tend to stay indoors more during the winter months, but also because people tend to dress in clothing that limits skin exposure during the colder months. If you’re finding that spending additional time outdoors is not helpful in conjunction with artificial UV light therapy, speak with your doctor to see if alternatives exist to both natural and artificial UV light.