With diabetes and obesity being two of the top diseases in America, it’s important to pay attention to your nutrition. Nutritionists can help you prevent or manage disease.
A nutritionist is a health professional who evaluates your diet, health, and lifestyle. Nutritionists are experts in nutritional balance, digestion, food allergies, weight loss, and more.
Some reasons why you may seek the advice of a nutritionist are weight loss assistance, diet planning to help certain conditions, or to obtain a healthier lifestyle. Medicare, however, only covers nutritionist services for one of these reasons.
Requirements for Coverage
Medicare Part B may cover certain nutritionist services for those who have diabetes or kidney disease. If you have had a kidney transplant within the past three years, Medicare may cover your nutritionist services as well.
The nutritionist services that Medicare covers are known as medical nutrition therapy (MNT). Medicare will only cover this therapy if your primary care provider refers you to a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
If you were to see a nutritionist on your own free will and you don’t suffer from one of the diseases mentioned above, Medicare will likely not cover your nutrition services.
What is Medical Nutrition Therapy?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical nutrition therapy is nutrition-based treatment and counseling services provided by a registered dietitian or nutritionist.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that medical nutrition therapy is the “key component for diabetes education and management.” Because diabetes is the most common disease in seniors, medical nutrition therapy is often needed by Medicare beneficiaries.
Medical nutrition therapy you receive under Medicare may include things like a nutrition assessment, lifestyle education services to help you manage your disease, individual or group therapy, and follow-up visits with your nutritionist.
Medicare will usually cover at least three hours of medical nutrition therapy during your first year. After your first year, Medicare will cover at least two hours of therapy every year. Medicare may cover more hours of therapy if your doctor recommends them.
What You Pay for Medicare-Covered MNT
Medicare covers medical nutrition therapy as a preventive service. You generally pay nothing for Medicare Part B covered preventive services; your Part B deductible doesn’t apply.
Medical Nutrition Therapy with Medical Advantage Plans
Medicare Advantage plans, Part C of Medicare, can be bought from private insurance carriers. This type of plan is required to cover all services that Original Medicare covers, but usually also includes non-Medicare-covered services. As of 2019, Medicare Advantage plans are allowed to offer home meal delivery that can provide healthier meals for their beneficiaries.
Another new benefit that Medicare Advantage plans can offer is telehealth services. Telehealth services are medical services, such as doctor visits, that are conducted by way of telecommunication.
Depending on the Medicare Advantage plan you have, you may be able to receive your medical nutrition therapy through telehealth communication. This benefit is mostly found in plans that are offered in rural areas.
Medicare Advantage Costs
Because Medicare Advantage plans are sold by insurance carriers, each plan can have a different premium. However, Medicare Advantage plans are usually much less expensive than Medigap plans. Some Medicare Advantage plans even have a $0 premium.
Under Part C, you pay a set copayment or coinsurance for your medical services. These costs are set by the carrier as well. However, Medicare Advantage plans are required to offer at least as good of coverage as Original Medicare. Therefore, if you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your medical nutrition therapy won’t cost you a penny if you meet the requirements mentioned above.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are always revising the benefits that Medicare Advantage plans are allowed to offer in addition to what Medicare already covers. So, Medicare Advantage plans may offer more nutrition services in the future.