Do Medicare Supplements Offer the SilverSneakers® Program?
For those who are eligible for Medicare or are 65+, the SilverSneakers® health and fitness program might be a free perk included with your Medicare plan.
Are you eligible for SilverSneakers®? Learn more about the SilverSneakers® program, which Medicare plans it comes with, and more.
→ If you’re 65+ and are enrolled in Medicare, there are plans that offer free gym memberships as a part of your health insurance. It's never been easier to get motivated and stay in shape! Learn more
What Is SilverSneakers®?
SilverSneakers® is a free health and fitness program included with many Medicare insurance plans. If you buy a Medicare plan that includes a SilverSneakers® benefit, you get free access to over 16,000 fitness locations in the United States.
SilverSneakers® also has an online option for those who prefer to workout at home. Use your free membership to watch online classes, workouts, and how-to videos.
Tivity Health owns the SilverSneakers® brand as well as many other health and fitness brands you’ve probably heard of including Nutrisystem® and South Beach Diet®. Tivity Health also launched a movement to increase awareness and discussion of rural aging. The movement is attempting to improve the lives of aging adults who live in rural communities.
Tivity Health explains that older Americans are exercising and socializing to improve and maintain their health, which leads to an active lifestyle as they age. The SilverSneakers® annual survey of more than 26,000 SilverSneakers® members found that more than 91 percent of members have improved their quality of life, 90 percent feel healthier overall, and 94 percent say their health is good, very good or excellent.
Why Do Medicare Plans Offer a SilverSneakers® Benefit?
Many insurance companies have started offering unique benefits and incentives to those who are working to improve their health through fitness and diet.
For example, the Attain by Aetna program is built around customizing your activity goals, such as how many steps you take or how many laps you swim. The weekly challenges are issued through the Apple Watch, and the points you earn by completing the challenges can be used to actually pay for said Apple Watch.
You also have life insurance companies like John Hancock, who have put together a “Vitality Program,” which gives policyholders the chance to reduce premiums by up to 15% for living a healthy life. You can earn rewards like Amazon discounts, an Apple Watch, a Fitbit device, and even a Vitality Healthy Food benefit with up to $600 in annual savings on healthy food purchases.
Many insurance companies recognize the value of encouraging their policyholders to stay on top of their health. The SilverSneakers® program is just one more way for insurance companies to help their members stay healthy for longer.
Healthier members mean lower medical bills, which ultimately saves the insurance company money in the long run. That’s the idea, anyway.
SilverSneakers® has been following the outcomes of its program for 7 years and found that increasing participation over time led to positive benefits for 5 measures of physical and mental health. In other words, exercising more means you’re more likely to have a higher quality of life.
Photo Credit: Josefina Hunter
Their program has also had a “significant impact” on social isolation and loneliness.
Best of all, SilverSneakers® reports that group exercise class attendees have $2,144 lower average healthcare costs than matched non-enrollees after only a single year in the program (SilverSneakers® Outcomes Report).
There are those cost savings the insurance companies are after!
Do Medicare Supplements Offer the SilverSneakers® Program?
Medicare Supplements do not offer the SilverSneakers® program.
Medicare Supplement benefits are standardized by the government, meaning that every plan must cover the same medical expenses. Generally, the only difference between Medicare Supplement plans sold by different companies is the cost (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services).
Related Reading: A Shopper’s Guide to Comparing Medicare Supplement Prices
While Medicare Supplements theoretically could offer benefits above and beyond what is required, we don’t know of any that do.
Medicare Advantage plans, on the other hand, tell a different story.
Do Medicare Advantage Plans Offer the SilverSneakers® Program?
The new and improved Plan Finder tool available on Medicare.gov (redesigned in 2019) now shows several of the most common extra benefits that come with Medicare Advantage plans.
If you’re shopping for a Medicare Advantage plan, simply go through the prompts until you reach your list of plan results.
Once you see the results, you’ll now see a line at the bottom of each plan’s box that says “Plan Benefits.” These items are benefits above and beyond what Original Medicare would offer.
If you click the “See more benefits” button, you’ll be able to view all of the extra benefits that Medicare’s Plan Finder tool currently displays.
The extra benefits listed include:
- Vision: typically a free eye exam once per year and a small allowance towards glasses or contacts
- Dental: typically a free dental exam, cleaning, and x-ray once per year
Related Reading: Dental Insurance for Seniors Over 65
- Hearing: typically a free hearing screening and sometimes a small benefit towards hearing aids
- Transportation: typically help towards getting a ride to a plan-approved location for non-emergency care (you generally must use the plan’s transportation vendor)
- Fitness benefits: typically the SilverSneakers® program
Photo Credit: Josefina Hunter
- Over-the-counter drugs: typically a small allowance towards OTC drugs, such as up to $75 every 3 months – this benefit is usually only applicable if you order from a specific mail order pharmacy that the plan specifies
- Worldwide emergency: in the event of an emergency, some Medicare Advantage plans allow you to get emergency care by paying the plan’s typical emergency copay – even if the provider is out-of-network
- Telehealth: also called virtual medical visits or virtual visits, this allows you to talk to a provider using your computer or phone instead of physically going into a doctor’s office
In-home support, home safety device & modification, and emergency response devices are also listed as potential extra benefits on Medicare’s website. However, we couldn’t find any plans that actually offered these benefits, so we aren’t sure what a typical benefit would look like.
There are even more extra benefits not currently showcased on Medicare’s Plan Finder tool, such as foot care (not covered by Original Medicare), a nursing hotline where you can talk to a nurse over the phone any time, and even a credit back for part of your Medicare Part B premium.
Note: You must pay the Medicare Part B premium no matter what plan type you choose (Medicare Supplement, Medicare Advantage, or Medicare MSA).
It is becoming a rare occurrence to come across a Medicare Advantage plan that does not come with a fitness benefit like the SilverSneakers®. However, some plans have other programs that provide fitness benefits, but they aren’t SilverSneakers®.
Is SilverSneakers® Different From Renew Active™?
Renew Active™ is similar to SilverSneakers® in that it is a fitness program that comes with some Medicare Advantage plans as a free perk.
However, Renew Active™ is by UnitedHealthcare specifically, which means it only comes with Medicare Advantage plans sold by UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliate companies, such as AARP. Also, not all UnitedHealthcare plans come with Renew Active™ – some plans require the purchase of an additional fitness rider.
If you’re a Renew Active™ member, you have access to fitness locations that participate with the plan, group fitness classes, and even online brain exercises to keep your mind in tip-top shape, too.
Popular gyms that are included in the Renew Active™ network of participating gyms include The YMCA, 24 Hour Fitness, Anytime Fitness, Snap Fitness 24-7, and Curves.
Am I Eligible for a Free Gym Membership with My Medicare Plan?
If free access to gyms and online workout classes is important to you, you might see if you’re eligible for Medicare Advantage plans that offer SilverSneakers® or Renew Active™ as an extra benefit.
Find out which plans in your zip code come with free gym membership privileges.
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Don’t choose a plan based solely on the fact that it has a free fitness benefit, though. Remember that the purpose of a Medicare health plan is to provide you with great health benefits! Be sure to consider your deductible, copays, and out-of-pocket maximum before settling on a plan.
You also may choose to stick with a Medicare Supplement, even though it doesn’t offer the extra perk of a free fitness program. Oftentimes, a Medicare Supplement is the right choice for you, and paying a little extra per month for the gym of your choice is a no-brainer.
Reach out to our team here at Medicare Allies to help you decide which plan type is right for you! Give us a call at 833-801-7999 or fill out our online contact form.
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