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Does Medicare Supplement Plan F Cover Acupuncture?

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Acupuncture has been practiced in East Asian countries (such as China) for thousands of years, the National Institute of Health reports. Millions of Americans are treated with acupuncture every year, but researchers don’t all agree that it’s effective.

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a technique or procedure that involves inserting thin needles into the skin to stimulate certain points on the body. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of chronic pain, such as low-back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, and knee pain. It also may help in the management of tension and migraine headaches.

If you are considering acupuncture, it’s a good idea to discuss your interest with your doctor first. You may also want to check the credentials of the acupuncturist with your state’s professional licensing agency. Finally, ask the acupuncture practitioner how many sessions he or she expects you’ll need, and the cost of each session.

Although a common practice in Chinese medicine, it’s considered to be outside the mainstream of medicine in the United States, the NIH reports. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) doesn’t typically cover acupuncture. However, some Medicare Advantage plans might cover it in some situations.

Do Medicare Supplement plans cover acupuncture?

No. Medicare Supplement (also known as Medigap) plans are offered by private insurers. Medicare Supplement plans are designed to work alongside Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance). They may help pay some of the costs not paid by Medicare for covered services, such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance.

Since Medicare Supplement plans work alongside Original Medicare coverage, they typically wouldn’t cover acupuncture. Even though Medicare Supplement Plan F* provides the most comprehensive basic benefits for Original Medicare’s out-of-pocket costs, it would generally not cover acupuncture.

*As of January 1, 2020 people new to Medicare can’t buy plans that cover the Medicare Part B deductible. This means that Medicare Supplement Plans C and F will no longer be available to new Medicare enrollees. However, if you already have a Plan C, Plan F, or high-deductible Plan F, you can keep it. If you were eligible for Medicare before January 1, 2020, you also may be able to buy Medicare Supplement Plan C, F, or high-deductible Plan F.

What are your options for paying for acupuncture?

If you have Medicare and you are interested in trying acupuncture or presently receiving acupuncture, you may have several options for paying for it.

  1. Pay the total cost of acupuncture out-of-pocket.
  2. If you have other insurance coverage from a retiree or pension plan, for example, or as dependent coverage under your spouse’s group insurance plan, check to see if plan covers acupuncture. Many large private insurers provide coverage for acupuncture.
  3. Some Medicare Advantage plans might cover acupuncture in certain situations. Many plans offer additional benefits not covered by Medicare for such things as routine dental care, routine vision care, prescription drug coverage, and acupuncture.

Do you have other questions regarding Medicare coverage? Enter your zip code to start browsing Medicare Supplement plans online, or speak with a licensed insurance agent by calling eHealth.

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