Medicare in the United States does not provide reimbursement or coverage for gym memberships. Under part A, original Medicare makes provisions for inpatient hospital services; under part B, it provides for outpatient healthcare and a limited number of preventative services.
You could argue that gym membership is a preventative service and that it should therefore be covered under part B of original Medicare. However, coverage under Medicare part B is really focused on supporting people who require care because they are already suffering from various health conditions. Covered programs under part B include physical therapy, occupational therapy, chiropractic care and selected other similar services. If your doctor has diagnosed you with a chronic condition and referred you to a physical therapist for treatment, your physical therapy is probably eligible for Medicare coverage. However, gym membership isn’t amongst the programs that Medicare routinely covers.
In the United States, it might be possible to obtain coverage for gym or fitness center memberships through private Medicare plans. Some private insurance companies offer optional Medicare Advantage (part C) plans that cover more than basic Medicare does. These plans give you all the inpatient, outpatient and preventative care coverage you’d get under Medicare, and they also offer additional coverage for a variety of healthcare services that would otherwise not be covered. Each of these plans can differ when it comes to which extra benefits it offers. Factors that affect coverage can include your location, the services you want to obtain, the amount you’re willing to spend on coverage and the types of services each individual provider is able to offer. You can check with providers such as Medicare Advantage and Medigap to find out about any currently available options.
Fitness Programs for Medicare-Eligible Seniors in the USA
Some Medigap, Medicare Advantage and other insurance providers offer fitness options you might be able to take advantage of. Three of these options are as follows:
Silver Sneakers offers its members access to a network of more than 15,000 gyms, community centers and fitness facilities. Members can also access the Silver Sneakers app and other appealing fitness services. They host live online classes and workshops that members can participate in. They also make a video library of workout videos and classes accessible.
Mutually Well gives its members access to classes and exercise equipment at a network of 10,000+ facilities including gyms, pools, basketball courts and racquetball courts. This organization also offers its members an app that delivers tailored weekly plans empowering them to get sufficient amounts of exercise, nutrition and rest each week. This organization also offers its members discounts on wellness services such as chiropractic care, acupuncture and massages.
Silver & Fit offers its members access to a network of 18,000+ fitness centers. Other benefits of membership include at-home daily fitness classes through Facebook Live and YouTube; a Well-Being Club that hosts virtual and in-person events; and a variety of equipment kits that help empower you to get fit at home.
Gym Memberships and Medicare in Other Countries
In Canada, the benefits provided by provincial and territorial health insurance plans are governed by the Canada Health Act, these plans do not typically cover services such as fitness memberships that are not considered to be medically necessary.
However, the Canadian government has historically made some provisions to encourage Canadians to be physically active. If you live in Canada, check with your tax professional to learn about whether any provincial fitness tax credits or other fitness tax credits are currently available to you and your family. For example, under certain circumstances, Canadian families in Newfoundland and Labrador may be eligible to receive up to $2,000 worth of Physical Activity Tax Credit when their children are enrolled in eligible recreational activity programs.
Gym membership is also not covered under the public Australian Medicare system. In Australia, some private health insurance funds may provide discounts on gym memberships and fitness classes to their members who meet eligibility criteria. These are typically made available under some of the more comprehensive extras cover plans.
Why Isn’t Gym Membership Covered Under Medicare?
Exercise can help to prevent many diseases and conditions that place heavy burdens on the Medicare systems around the world. For example, the Center for Disease Control reports that physical activity lowers your risk of contracting various chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. With that in mind, it seems logical to conclude that gym memberships should be encouraged. So why isn’t gym membership covered by Medicare?
Medicare benefits are determined by law. It is the lawmakers in each country who have determined which services Medicare will and will not cover. We hope this information is helpful to you as you seek to understand your options for funding your gym membership. Best wishes in your pursuit of health and fitness.
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