Obesity is a major concern among Americans at any age as it can lead to a wide range of medical complications affecting various systems and organs. From heart disease to joint deterioration, excess weight has a detrimental effect on almost every part of the body, and unfortunately, the older we get, the harder it can be to lose excess weight. When you add in the fact that many seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have mobility issues that prevent them from being able to partake in regular exercise, you have a recipe for frustration and potentially serious health consequences.
Can Weight Loss Programs Help?
Weight loss programs come in a variety of formats, and many are geared toward losing weight. These programs often require strict adherence to a specific diet or exercise routine, but some also push specialized dietary supplements that are proprietary to the company supporting the program.
There are many other types of weight loss programs that are directed at people who need to lose weight to improve health and fight disease. These programs are usually offered through health insurance providers, government agencies and physicians’ offices.
Whether a weight loss program works or not is difficult to gauge because there is plenty of misinformation out there surrounding different foods, but more importantly, everyone is different and responds to exercise differently. There really is no one-size-fits-all weight loss plan, and this can lead people dealing with excess weight to feel frustrated.
Does Medicare Cover Weight Loss Programs?
Medicare beneficiaries are usually not able to find covered weight loss services because Medicare coverage tends to treat all weight loss programs as lifestyle enhancers. As a result, if you’re on Medicare, you will not be able to have weight loss supplements or prescriptions covered under traditional Medicare coverage, and the cost to join gyms, weight loss clubs or other weight loss programs are not covered.
One exception to this, however, is when a Medicare recipient undergoes a weight loss program in preparation for surgery. This surgery may be bariatric, meaning the surgery is designed specifically to address health issues caused by excess weight, or it may be a different surgery requiring weight loss as a prerequisite to get healthy enough to have the operation and recover from it.
In any case where Medicare does offer covered benefits for weight loss programs, the program will need to be provided by a Medicare-approved facility and must be considered medically necessary leading up to a surgical procedure or during rehabilitation. Medicare Part B covers these programs because they are outpatient in nature, but if a weight loss program is part of a stay in a skilled nursing facility after surgery, Medicare Part A may cover some of the cost.
Medicare May Cover Healthy Weight Screening Services
Although Medicare coverage doesn’t usually provide benefits for weight loss programs on their own, if your doctor deems a screening service medically necessary and the screening includes measuring things like weight and body mass index, these screenings will likely be covered under Medicare Part B.
Weight loss counseling services may also be included in this group if the counseling is part of a treatment plan to prevent or fight off a medical condition being caused in whole or in part by obesity or associated conditions like diabetes or hypertension.
You may also qualify for additional benefits for weight loss programs if you are enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan. Such plans sometimes provide Medicare beneficiaries with support services for overall wellness that are provided at no cost or at a discount. Before seeking out these services, it’s best to consult with your plan for clarification to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses. Some Medicare Advantage plans include coverage for the SilverSneakers fitness program that can help you stay active and healthy.