Staying active and fit is an essential part of healthy aging. Even the Centers for Disease Control recommends that adults 65 and older need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, at least two days a week of activities to strengthen muscles, and about three days a week to improve balance.
With that information, you might be wondering if Medicare pays for gym memberships. After all, staying fit should help you stay healthy and reduce your overall medical expenses.
Does Medicare Cover Gym Memberships?
Original Medicare has two segments, Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A is sometimes called hospital insurance. It helps cover inpatient care in a hospital, nursing facility, hospice, and some home health care. Part B is for medical care and covers services provided by your doctor and other outpatient care.
Neither Part A nor Part B of Original Medicare covers gym memberships. While Medicare covers some preventive services, gym memberships and fitness programs are not included in their scope of coverage.
What Wellness Benefits Does Original Medicare Cover?
Original Medicare doesn’t cover gym memberships, but some wellness benefits do qualify for coverage. If your doctor has prescribed an exercise program that is part of physical or occupational therapy, then those therapy sessions are covered by Medicare. Similarly, cardiac rehabilitation may require a prescribed fitness plan that Medicare covers.
Other wellness programs include the Diabetes Prevention Program, which offers exercise, diet, and lifestyle classes to help people at risk of developing diabetes. Nutrition therapy is covered if you have diabetes and is also available for people with kidney disease or who have had a kidney transplant.
Obesity screening and counseling is another Medicare-covered wellness benefit. This may include nutritional training and physical activities.
Does Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) Cover Gym Memberships?
People eligible for Medicare have two options, they can select Original Medicare, which includes Parts A and B, or they can opt for Medicare Part C coverage, more commonly referred to as Medicare Advantage.
The federal government does not provide Medicare Advantage; private insurance companies approved by Medicare provide it. Medicare Advantage programs operate like a PPO or an HMO with approved providers and facilities. They are required to offer the same benefits as Medicare Part A and Part B, but many of these plans have added benefits, including gym memberships.
You can choose from various Medicare Advantage plans; each has different options, including some gym memberships and fitness programs. To find out what is covered, you’ll have to review your specific Medicare Advantage program or the ones you’re considering for coverage. Three nationwide fitness and gym membership programs qualify for Medicare Advantage and Medigap coverage.
SilverSneakers is a well-known fitness plan that caters to people 65 and older. SilverSneakers programs exist across the United States and feature classes and wellness support focusing on essential health areas for seniors.
SilverSneakers includes live online classes, on-demand videos, and in-person fitness classes. There is also a support community to help seniors plan their health goals and find a path to achieving them. Many Medicare Advantage programs do include SilverSneakers in their benefits.
Renew Active is a program similar to SilverSneakers but also incorporates brain health activities into its programs. Renew Active is noteworthy because all UnitedHealthcare Medicare plans that used to cover SilverSneakers memberships have switched to Renew Active.
If you have a UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plan or are considering one, you will no longer have coverage for SilverSneakers but may have coverage for Renew Active.
Another fitness plan designed for seniors is Silver&Fit. This plan features free classes on Facebook Live and YouTube and provides gym memberships to qualifying Medicare enrollees at fitness centers around the country. Some Medicare Advantage programs may give you an option between Silver&Fit or SilverSneakers; both programs are similar and offer wellness-based programs that focus on overall health for older adults.
Other Wellness Programs
Medicare offers other wellness plans through your Medicare Advantage program, some in conjunction with one of those listed above or in place of them. For instance, Senior PHIT is a program similar to the above ones, but AETNA Medicare Advantage plans cover it.
It pays to review what different Advantage plans offer other wellness options; some include acupuncture, health management, NurseLine, disease management programs, and more.
Do Medicare Supplement Plans Cover Gym Memberships?
Original Medicare supplement plans are referred to as Medigap because they fill Medicare coverage gaps. Medigap pairs with Original Medicare to help pay the 20% of provider charges that Medicare doesn’t cover, medical equipment not covered, infusion drugs, and other out-of-pocket costs not covered. There are eight different Medigap plans, and some include a gym membership.
Each Medigap plan is different, but some of them do include a gym membership for free. If you want to sign up for a specific program, like Silver&Fit, there might be an additional fee, but it’s often nominal. Premium fitness networks are also available with some Medigap plans, but there is an additional fee or a buy-up option involved with this advanced level of fitness coverage.
The best action plan is to check if the gym comply with any Medigap plans and what they offer. A Medigap-provided gym coverage typically includes all of the primary benefits of a gym membership. Coverage may vary by the gym, but some standard features are:
- Cardio equipment
- Strength training equipment
- Swimming pool(s)
- Tennis courts
- Walking or running tracks
- Group exercise classes (including older adult classes)
Finding the right gym and Medigap plan requires comparison shopping on both ends.
Benefits of Exercising for Seniors
Exercise is vital for people of any age, and leading an active lifestyle throughout your years is one of the best steps you can take to improve health and wellness. In an aging population, exercise can help prevent falls, improve flexibility, boost heart strength and fitness, elevate mental health, and it can be mentally stimulating.
Programs designed for people 65 years and older cater to their specific needs and can often be customized or focused on handling particular healthcare concerns. Not only do these programs help with physical health, but they are also beneficial for cognitive function and social engagement. This provides a well-rounded approach to an improved aging experience for anyone actively participating in fitness programs.