Will Medicare cover alternative medicine?

Various alternative medicine methods have been around for hundreds of years. Alternative medicines have grown in popularity, but also, many methods have moved into the mainstream category as doctors test and use them. Alternative medicine can be used for pain management, fighting illnesses, and prevention.

As you age into Medicare eligibility and beyond, alternative medicine may help with various health conditions. You will want to be prepared and knowledgeable about what alternative therapies Medicare does and doesn’t cover.

What is alternative medicine?

Alternative medicine consists of a wide range of health therapies used in place of mainstream or traditional methods to heal the body. There are various alternative medicines such as chiropractic, osteopathic, acupuncture, homeopathic, and other naturopathic methods.

Chiropractic and acupuncture can help with pain management. Osteopathy takes the approach of treating the entire body rather than the specific symptoms, which means diving into how the person’s lifestyle and environment affect their wellbeing.  Homeopathic medicine is the approach that the body can heal itself while using natural substances to help. Naturopathy is the idea that diet, exercise, and massage can help control and prevent diseases in the body rather than using drugs.

How Medicare works

Medicare consists of two parts. Part A provides inpatient hospital coverage, and Part B provides outpatient medical coverage.

Part A

Medicare Part A covers a semi-private room, three daily meals, medications, lab services, 100 days in a skilled nursing facility, home health care, and hospice care. In 2021, there is a $1,484 deductible per benefit period for Part A services.

If a beneficiary worked at least 40 quarters in the U.S. or has a spouse that worked at least 40 quarters, then Part A will be $0 per month. However, if a beneficiary has less than 40 quarters of work history, they will have a premium for Part A.

Part B

Medicare Part B covers doctor visits, surgeries, lab work, tests, preventive visits, and more. There is an annual deductible of $203 in 2021 for Part B services. Once the deductible is met, Medicare Part B will pay 80% of approved services.

The standard monthly Part B premium is $148.50, but higher-income earners can expect to pay more for Part B.

A beneficiary is left with out-of-pocket costs from Original Medicare, which is why many beneficiaries will enroll in a Medigap or Medicare Advantage plan to help with the costs. They can also purchase a Part D plan for prescription coverage.

What alternative methods are covered by Medicare?

Medicare Part B will cover anything deemed medically necessary when it comes to hospital and medical services. There are two alternative medicines that Medicare covers. The first being chiropractic care, but only if it is the manual manipulation of the spine to correct subluxation. Other services performed by the chiropractor, such as x-rays and massages, would not be covered.

The other alternative medicine method that Medicare covers is acupuncture. Medicare Part B will cover up to 12 visits in 90 days, but only if the acupuncture is for chronic low back pain. If there is an improvement, then Medicare will also cover eight additional visits.

The Part B deductible and coinsurance apply for both alternative medicine methods.

What alternative methods aren’t covered by Medicare?

The doctor may recommend other alternative medicine therapies to help with certain medical conditions, such as massage therapy. If Medicare does not approve the alternative medicines, then the procedures will not be covered.

Other alternative methods that may come to mind are medical marijuana and CBD oil. At this time, Medicare does not provide coverage for either.


The list of Medicare-covered services has increased since the beginning of this federal health program. Alternative medicine procedures have been approved by Medicare and added to that list after extended evaluation.

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