Will Medicare Cover Alternative Medicine?

In today’s medical world, more and more people are exploring alternative medicine. Alternative medicine isn’t just a type of treatment but also a lifestyle. Many forms of alternative medicine can be repeated throughout someone’s life, but others may seek that treatment when they no longer want to try the traditional medicine options.

Although alternative medicine can provide different benefits, it’s important to understand your cost-sharing for these types of visits and procedures. Does insurance cover it? And more specifically, does Medicare cover it if you’re 65 and older? Prior to scheduling a visit with your provider, you’ll want to know this information. You can learn more about preparing for the cost of Medicare by visiting boomerbenefits.com/tips-on-how-to-prepare-for-the-cost-of-medicare. But let’s cover some of the basics first.

What is alternative medicine?

Therapies or procedures that are not recognized as orthodox in the medical profession are known as types of alternative medicine. Many people prefer alternative medicine to standard practices for many reasons. However, here are examples of alternative medicine and what they are used for:

  • Acupuncture– This alternative medicine includes thin, tiny needles inserted into the body. According to John Hopkins Medicine, acupuncture helps stimulate the nervous system and, in turn, stimulates the body’s healing abilities. Chemicals are released throughout the body during acupuncture, which enables the body’s healing powers.
  • Homeopathy– This alternative medicine was created in Germany and is based on two theories. One is “like cures like,” and the other is the “law of minimum dose.” Both involve using natural substances and products to help heal diseases.
  • Naturopathy– Naturopathic medicine combines traditional practices and health care approaches. Naturopathic providers may recommend dietary and lifestyle changes, herbs and supplements, exercise therapy, and others to treat diseases and illnesses. They promote self-healing with the use of natural remedies.
  • Chiropractic–Chiropractic is an alternative medicine that helps diagnose, treat, and prevent disorders associated with the mechanics of your musculoskeletal system.
  • Massage therapy– This alternative medicine helps treat injuries and promote health by applying pressure and massaging muscles and tissue.
  • Dietary supplements– Supplements can be a form of alternative medicine that helps your body improve and promote healing. Some nutritional supplements include vitamins, minerals, and herbs. Changing one’s nutrition or improving their lack of specific vitamins can help treat health conditions.

Does Medicare cover alternative medicine?

Although there can be many benefits to using alternative medicine, and it has grown in popularity, insurance may not cover all types. It’s important to know what your insurance will cover and what it won’t cover. Regarding Medicare insurance, if a product is not FDA-approved, it’s doubtful Medicare will cover it. For example, Medicare plans do not cover vitamins you can get over the counter. It also does not cover massage therapy.

However, Medicare can cover chiropractic services if it is for manual manipulation of the spine to correct the subluxation, which you may know as an adjustment. Medicare can also cover acupuncture if it is used for chronic low back pain.

How much does Medicare pay for approved services?

When it comes to your cost-sharing and what you can be responsible for, you need to understand what Medicare pays for services. Approved chiropractic and acupuncture services will fall under Medicare Part B. This means you need to meet the annual Part B deductible before Medicare kicks in to pay for approved services. In 2022, that deductible is $233. Once the deductible is met, Medicare pays 80% of the approved cost, so you are responsible for the remaining 20% coinsurance.

Final thoughts

Medicare insurance helps cover medically necessary services to treat, diagnose, or monitor a health condition. However, coverage for alternative medicine depends on the specific service. Generally, there are limitations to the alternative medicine services Medicare approves, so it’s essential to know Medicare’s coverage before you make an appointment.

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