Original Medicare covers inpatient and outpatient medical care, as well as some preventive care services. However, gym memberships and fitness programs aren’t part of that coverage.
Optional Medicare plans like Medicare Advantage and Medigap, on the other hand, may offer coverage for fitness services.
Let’s take a look at how to get your fitness costs covered under these plans, as well as the healthy lifestyle benefits that original Medicare will cover.
Will Medicare pay for my gym membership?
While it might seem like fitness programs could fall under preventive care, Part B coverage is limited to programs that support physical health for medical conditions. These programs include:
- occupational therapy
- physical therapy
- speech therapy
- cardiac rehabilitation
- chiropractic care
- durable medical equipment
Without a medical diagnosis that requires some type of physical therapy or rehabilitation, you’ll need to pay the full cost of fitness center or gym memberships out of pocket if you have only original Medicare.
You can opt into optional Medicare plans, such as Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) or Medicare supplement insurance (Medigap). These plans may cover fitness center and gym fees. Coverage varies by plan type, location, and how much you’re willing to pay for your plan.
How do I get a gym membership through my Medicare Advantage plan?
Medicare Advantage (Part C) is a type of optional plan offered by private insurance companies. These plans are required to cover at least as much as original Medicare covers in terms of inpatient, outpatient, and preventive care services.
Most plans also offer additional services beyond original Medicare.
The extra benefits each plan offers depends on:
- the insurance provider
- your location
- the services you choose to include in your plan
- how much you can pay for coverage
What is SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is a fitness program designed for adults ages 65 and older. While this program isn’t covered under original Medicare, many Medicare Advantage plans include SilverSneakers or other fitness programs in their coverage.
The SilverSneakers program offers more than just gym memberships. There are a number of in-person programs across the country, as well as online programs and services. These benefits include:
- Wide availability. With this program, you can use more than 17,000 participating fitness centers across the country. Find out what facilities in your area participate by clicking here.
- Tailored fitness classes. Classes are specifically designed for older adults and tailored for every fitness level. They include chair exercises, water exercise, yoga, tai chi, circuit training, and weight training.
- SilverSneakers FLEX classes. These classes offer fitness programs outside of the traditional gym. SilverSneakers supports physical health through alternative methods like walking programs, community center classes, park programs, and more. Learn about the FLEX program by clicking here.
- Online resources. Members have access to an online library of fitness resources, nutrition information, and on-demand classes and workout videos. For a more interactive experience from home, SilverSneakers also offers live online classes.
- SilverSneakers app. An app called SilverSneakers GO helps you track your fitness, nutrition, and other health information.
SilverSneakers is usually offered at no additional cost as part of many Medicare Advantage plans. Eligibility criteria varies by plan, but you can check your eligibility through your plan provider or on the SilverSneakers website.
Are other fitness programs available?
Besides SilverSneakers, many Medicare Advantage plans also offer other fitness options. They might provide a dollar amount you can apply toward a fitness or wellness program, or they might offer their own services, like:
- Renew Active by United Healthcare not only includes a gym membership, but also offers an online brain health program and access to local health and wellness events.
- Silver&Fit offers online or in-person fitness services at more than 14,000 locations nationwide.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield offers some of its Medicare Advantage members $150 per year toward fitness center memberships, with some restrictions.
Some of these programs, like Silver&Fit, offer similar programs and options as SilverSneakers. Others offer complementary support, such as wellness resources and nutritional counseling. Most Medicare Advantage plans include these services at no additional fee beyond the cost of the plan you’ve chosen.
If you’re interested in fitness services, ask about coverage for these benefits when selecting your Medicare Advantage plan.
What about Medigap coverage for gym memberships?
Gym memberships and costs for fitness programs are covered less often by Medigap plans than by Medicare Advantage plans.
Typically, Medigap plans are geared more toward covering your share of original Medicare services than extra services like fitness programs. However, some plans may include options for fitness program coverage.
If you need fitness membership coverage, compare Medigap plans carefully before enrolling.
Does Medicare offer other healthy lifestyle benefits?
Outside of coverage for fitness programs or gym memberships, Medicare covers a variety of services geared toward wellness.
Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage plans cover many wellness services either considered medically necessary or as a supplemental service under an Advantage plan. These services include:
- diabetes care
- heart health and cholesterol programs
- preventive health screenings
- mental health visits
- addiction and substance use disorder services
- smoking cessation program
- nutritional counseling
- dental care
- weight loss surgery
- Original Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of gym memberships or fitness programs.
- Most Medicare Advantage plans offer participation in national fitness programs like SilverSneakers or offer members an allowance for fitness program reimbursement.
- Medigap plans sometimes cover fitness benefits.
- Beyond fitness programs, Medicare covers a wide variety of services aimed at promoting your overall wellness.