Is alternative medicine covered by Medicare?

Does Medicare cover alternative medicine? Probably not. While alternative treatments are rising in popularity, there is little evidence that Medicare should cover them. If you’re searching for holistic doctors that accept Medicare, you’re likely not to find anything outside of acupuncturists, chiropractors, and nutritional counselors. There are restrictions to those services, too, however.

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UPDATED: Jun 28, 2022

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Written By: Chris TepedinoReviewed By: Laura WalkerUPDATED: Jun 28, 2022Fact Checked

The Rundown

  • Alternative medicine includes massage, chiropractic services, acupuncture, diet management, and lifestyle counseling
  • Original Medicare is extremely selective in the alternative services it will cover
  • If you want to pursue holistic healing, Medicare Advantage has the most options for coverage

With healthcare costs on the rise and a spotlight on health, more people are now looking to alternative medicine than ever before.

Alternative medicines seek to treat diseases, illnesses, and injuries in a more natural way. Also called naturopathy, scientific evidence supports some techniques, but not all.

Regardless, naturopathy’s popularity is on the rise, which leads to questions about Medicare health insurance and Medicare exclusions.

Does Medicare cover alternative medicine? The answer is complicated, and if you’re interested in paying for natural remedies through insurance, you should start by shopping around for rates.

To start looking at what quotes might be for you, enter your ZIP code into our free tool.

Does Medicare cover alternative medicine?

In 2004, the CDC reported that 36% of American adults had tried at least one type of holistic treatment. That number has grown in the years since, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

Alternative medicine includes acupuncture, massage, nutrition management, chiropractic care, and exercise regimens. Naturopathy appeals to many people because it is a gentler, less invasive way to treat health conditions.

Unfortunately for those interested in pursuing natural healthcare, Medicare doesn’t cover everything. For example, Medicare did not cover acupuncture care until recently.

Medicare will cover, with exceptionsMedicare does not cover
Chiropractic servicesVisits to naturopathic doctors
AcupunctureAlternative therapies
Nutrition CounselingNatural medicine
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The approved practices Medicare will cover come with strict guidelines.

Does Medicare cover acupuncture?

Due to the ongoing opioid crisis, Medicare now allows acupuncture to treat chronic lower back pain. Since acupuncture helps reduce pain from chronic back problems, acupuncture can reduce opioid dependency.

However, this is the only reason Medicare will cover acupuncture. To qualify, your back pain has to be chronic — it can’t be an acute injury or pain in any other part of your body.

Unfortunately, Medicare and acupuncture don’t go hand in hand. You’ll have to find an alternative way of paying for the services of an acupuncturist.

Does Medicare cover chiropractic services?

Chiropractic care is another natural healthcare service that Medicare covers for one specific reason. Medicare will cover your visit to the chiropractor if you have a misaligned spine.

In that case, you can visit a chiropractor to have your spine straightened. If you want to see a chiropractor for any other reason, including pain, numbness, and other health issues, you’ll be responsible for payment.

Does Medicare cover nutritional counseling?

A third example of a particular requirement, Medicare will cover nutritional counseling if you have a physical condition that your diet can improve.

Health conditions that benefit from nutritional counseling include diabetes, kidney disease, or if you had a kidney transplant within the last six months.

Unless you meet that criteria, Medicare won’t pay for your nutritional counseling.

Does Medicare cover naturopathic medicine?

This question, along with “Does Medicare cover naturopathic doctors?” has a disappointing answer for anyone interested in naturopathic medicine.

Naturopathic medicine seeks to treat health conditions with natural ingredients. Most people are familiar with the use of herbal tea to treat things like a headache, cough, or cold.

However, if you look at the back of your tea box, you’ll see a disclaimer stating the claims made about the tea are not backed by evidence.

Because of this, Medicare does not cover naturopathic medicine.

Medicare also skips naturopathic doctors because it does not recognize them as medical authorities. If you qualify for acupuncture or chiropractic services, you’ll need to see a licensed doctor and not a naturopath.

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Which type of care is not covered by Medicare?

While natural healthcare has benefits of its own, Medicare doesn’t cover any other naturopathic services. There isn’t enough evidence that proves natural medicine is something that Medicare should cover.

If you want to receive alternative treatment to whatever ails you, you should consider an alternative form of payment. Some insurances will cover alternative medicines, including Medicare Advantage (or Medicare Part C).

Medicare Advantage is supplemental insurance you can buy on top of Original Medicare. This additional insurance may give you more options for natural medicine. It all depends on the policy purchase.

Does Medicare cover functional medicine?

Functional doctors approach healthcare from a holistic viewpoint. This means that they look at your entire health history to discover the root of your medical condition rather than treat the symptoms.

Functional doctors are popular because they spend more time with their patients than conventional doctors.

Functional physicians aren’t considered the same as primary care doctors. Insurance does not cover functional doctors, and that includes Medicare.

Consider Medicare Advantage for Alternative Medicine

If you’re looking for holistic doctors that accept Medicare, chances are you won’t find any. Medicare doesn’t cover most natural healthcare options.

However, if you’re determined to get alternative treatment, Medicare Advantage will give you the best chances of having your care paid for.

So, does Medicare cover alternative medicine? Your best bet is to explore your Medicare Advantage options. If you’re ready to see what quotes might look like for you, enter your ZIP code into our free tool today.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by insurance experts.

Chris Tepedino is a feature writer that has written extensively about home, life, and car insurance for numerous websites. He has a college degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and has experience reporting, researching investigative pieces, and crafting detailed, data-driven features. His works have been featured on CB Blog Nation, Flow Words, Healing Law, WIBW Kansas, and C...

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Written by Chris Tepedino
Insurance Feature Writer Chris Tepedino

Laura Walker graduated college with a BS in Criminal Justice with a minor in Political Science. She married her husband and began working in the family insurance business in 2005. She became a licensed agent and wrote P&C business focusing on personal lines insurance for 10 years. Laura serviced existing business and wrote new business. She now uses her insurance background to help educate...

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Reviewed by Laura Walker
Former Licensed Agent Laura Walker

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