Medicare Your Coverage Options

If you need nutrition counseling, Medicare may cover it in full

Written by Diane Archer

As we all know, what we eat can affect our health in all kinds of ways. And, for the 15 million people with Medicare who have diabetes or kidney conditions, this is all the more true. To help people with diabetes or kidney disease learn to eat right, Medicare covers nutrition counseling in full. (Medicare also covers weight counseling.)

If you have diabetes, chronic renal disease or have had a kidney transplant and want medical nutrition counseling, so long as you see a doctor, registered dietician, or other Medicare-qualified nutrition professional who “takes assignment”–accepts Medicare’s approved amount as payment in full–you will have no out-of-pocket costs. And, if you’re in a Medicare Advantage plan, so long as you see an in-network provider—you will have no copays, coinsurance or other out-of-pocket costs either.

Few people with Medicare or their physicians appear to know about the nutrition-counseling benefit even though the benefit has been available since 2002. Only a small fraction of people with Medicare take advantage of it. Kaiser Health News reports that just 100,000 people with traditional Medicare received nutrition counseling in 2017. There’s no data as to whether any of the 20 million people enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans are getting this benefit.

To benefit from Medicare coverage of dietary counseling, speak with your doctor. You will need a referral from your doctor to a registered dietician or qualified nutrition specialist. Medicare generally pays for three hours of dietary counseling during the first year you receive counseling. Medicare pays for an additional two hours of counseling every year afterwards.

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