Does Medicare Cover Chiropractors?

Over 14% of patients treated by chiropractors are 65 and older. Medicare is specific on the type of Chiropractic services that it covers, read on to find out more.
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Despite its ability to potentially help deliver successful results,  chiropractic has traditionally been considered an alternative practice.  As Medicare is focused on covering ‘medically-necessary’ services, does Medicare cover chiropractors?  Find out more in this article.

What is Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractic care is a complementary and alternative medicine that is mainly used to diagnose and treat mechanical issues that a person is having with their musculoskeletal system.

Chiropractic doctors focus on helping to treat and prevent injuries that happen to your bones, muscles, cartilage, tendons, ligaments, joints, and connective tissues that support and bind tissues and organs together. The musculoskeletal system helps maintain body form and mobility.

What are the Common Chiropractic Services?

Chiropractic services are most well-known for spinal adjustments to help treat patients with spinal complaints. This is where chiropractors will apply manipulation to the vertebrae to help treat issues where there is abnormal movement.

The objective of this chiropractic treatment is to reduce subluxation (when one or more bones in your body move out of position), with the goals of increasing range of motion, reducing nerve irritability, and improving overall physical function.

Chiropractic care may also include other treatments like soft tissue therapy (such as massages), postural education and prescribing exercise programs, ergonomic training (how to appropriately walk, sit, and stand to limit strain on your back), hydrotherapy as well as external stimulation of muscle and joints through ultrasound or electrodes.

Does Original Medicare cover Chiropractors?

Original Medicare has very limited coverage when it comes to chiropractic care.

  • Part A (Hospital Insurance)
    Part A of Original Medicare provides inpatient hospital care which means it does not cover any parts of your chiropractic care.
  • Part B (Medical Insurance)
    Medicare Part B covers outpatient medically necessary services.  Part B will only pay for one specific chiropractic service: manual manipulation of the spine if deemed medically necessary to correct a subluxation (when one or more of the bones in your spine are out of position).  For such services, 80% of the Medicare-approved amount will be covered by Medicare, while you cover the remaining 20%.  Medicare Part B deductibles will also apply if you have not yet reached your annual deductible limit.

Medicare doesn’t cover other services or tests ordered by a chiropractor, including X-rays, massage therapy, and acupuncture.

Does Medicare Advantage cover Chiropractors?

Medicare Advantage (also known as Part C coverage) will have at least the same coverage that Original Medicare has, and may also cover care beyond just the spinal alignment depending on your plan.

Terms are different for each plan and there are many different Medicare Advantage plans with different services available depending on your location (or ‘service area’). This means that when you’re looking for a Medicare Advantage plan it is important to ask the providers what their coverage for chiropractic care contains if this is something that’s important to you.

Does Medigap cover Chiropractors?

Medigap is supplemental insurance you can purchase for extra coverage of ‘gaps’ (or out-of-pocket costs such as copays, coinsurance, and deductibles) you may incur under Original Medicare. If you are approved under Original Medicare for chiropractic care like spinal alignment (to correct a subluxation), Medigap can help you with your 20% coinsurance obligation of the Medicare-approved amount if the Medigap plan you purchased covers Part B coinsurance.

Final Words

Chiropractic care can be a useful treatment for those who have back pain, have recently suffered a physical injury, or for those looking to prevent injury due to misalignment in your musculoskeletal system. Original Medicare has very minimal and specific coverage requirements for your chiropractic care, however, depending on the Medicare Advantage plan you choose, you may be able to find the chiropractic care you need. Costs of your specific chiropractic care may be covered by Medigap if you receive Medicare-approved chiropractic care.

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