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Does Medicare cover naturopaths, alternative medicine, or holistic medicine?

Just the Essentials...

  • Some seniors seek alternative treatments from naturopaths or other treatment providers when traditional medicine doesn’t meet their needs or has adverse side effects.

  • Original Medicare may cover some alternative treatments, like acupuncture, but certain requirements must be met.

  • Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional coverage for alternative medicine or naturopathy, but coverage is rare.

What kind of coverage can you get with Medicare Advantage? Call (800) 950-0608 to explore your options with a licensed agent.

What is naturopathy and does Medicare cover it?

Naturopathy is a type of health care that combines alternative and natural medicine with modern medicine. It emphasizes education, prevention of health problems, and personal responsibility to take care of your health. Common methods to accomplish this include stress management, diet, and exercise. Naturopathy focuses on: 

  • Identifying obstacles to healing and removing them by treating underlying physical and mental issues
  • Preventing issues by removing toxic substances in someone’s lifestyle
  • Educating patients on how to prevent ill health

Naturopathic doctors and healthcare professionals use health assessments, lab tests, and imaging to help diagnose health issues just like a traditional doctor. But they may incorporate therapies like herbal medicine, homeopathy, and acupuncture.

Medicare will not pay for naturopathic doctor’s visits because the education and training these doctors go through are not necessarily comparable to a doctor of medicine (MD). This may change in the future, because Medicare does cover some forms of alternative medicine. However, naturopathic treatment is currently not covered under Original Medicare or Medigap plans. Medicare Advantage plans vary and some may have naturopathic care coverage, but this it is rare that you will receive full coverage.

Osteopathic medicine is covered by Medicare because the treatment these doctors provide and the training they undergo are at the same level as an MD.

Does Medicare cover naturopaths or alternative medicine?

Board with needles for acupuncture on bamboo mat

Medicare will pay for certain types of alternative medicine. Starting in January 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a decision to cover acupuncture for people who have chronic lower back pain as diagnosed by a doctor under Medicare Part B. 12 acupuncture sessions are covered for the treatment of lower back pain over the course of 90 days, and if the patient shows improvement another 8 sessions are approved for coverage.  A total of 20 sessions are permitted each year.

These sessions will be paid for if:

  • A medical doctor, nurse, or physician assistant performs the procedure and has a graduate or doctorate level degree in acupuncture or Oriental Medicine from a school with accreditation from the Accreditation Commission on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM).
  • The provider has a current, unrestricted, active license to practice acupuncture in the state where the procedure is performed.

Make sure you get the coverage you need from Medicare. Give us a call at (800) 950-0608 or compare plans using our free quoting tool.

Medicare Advantage and Alternative Medicine

Medicare Advantage plans may offer seniors some benefits that help promote a more holistic lifestyle. Medicare Advantage plans are similar to traditional insurance plans, offering the same benefits as Original Medicare but often with added benefits. Plans require coinsurance, deductibles, and copays. But they also may include unique benefits like the SilverSneakers program and healthy food options along with pain management therapies and behavioral therapy. Plans may also cover other types of holistic or alternative medicine support depending upon the plan. 

Staying healthy is a goal every senior should adopt as they age,  and some may choose to explore alternative treatment methods and therapies. Seniors who are struggling to find a plan or who have questions about plan coverage should call us at (800) 950-0608. If you’re wondering, does Medicare cover naturopaths, or if you have other questions, we’ll be happy to help you find coverage that best fits your needs.

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