Medicare can help pay for physical therapy, which may be a crucial part of injury or surgery recovery. However, Medicare’s coverage has limits.
Every Medicare beneficiary begins with Original Medicare, which includes Part A, hospital coverage, and Part B, medical coverage. Most physical therapy services will fall under Medicare Part B – however, there are specific Medicare guidelines for physical therapy in-home health services and doctor services.
It can be confusing to navigate the different coverage caps and figure out what Medicare therapy coverage you have. Let’s break it down.
Physical Therapy for Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common symptoms that leads to physical therapy. As you age, back pain is almost inevitable. It’s easy to fall into bad habits and poor posture. If you have back pain that lasts for a few weeks or longer, most doctors will recommend physical therapy.
A licensed and professional physical therapist will not only help you decrease pain but also educate you on how to prevent back pain in the future. He or she may even teach you some physical therapy exercises to perform at home.
Alternatively, seniors and Medicare eligibles who have a hard time getting to a doctor’s office may opt for a home nurse who is licensed to assist with physical therapy. In most cases, if your home nurse happens to double as a physical therapist, you will be covered under Part B.
Unfortunately, these services are not free.
How Much Does Medicare Pay for Physical Therapy?
Medicare Part B will cover your medically necessary outpatient therapy (physical, speech-language pathology, occupational) at 80%; you will be responsible for 20%.
The Physical Therapy Cap
The Medicare physical therapy cap was eliminated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.
Previously, Medicare only covered up to 80% of $2,040 ($1,608) for physical and speech-language therapy services and another 80% of $2,040 ($1,608) for occupational therapy services. That meant that, for example, if your physical therapy appointments cost you $100, Medicare would have only covered about 20 visits per year.
Beneficiaries were receiving notices titled, “Advance Beneficiary Notice of Noncoverage.” The notice will tell you what Medicare will can or cannot continue to cover so that you can make informed choices about whether or not you want to continue your physical therapy.
Thankfully, physical, occupational, and speech therapy patients with Medicare won’t have that problem in 2019.
Medicare Physical Therapy Billing
When it comes to paying the bills for your physical therapy, you may want to consider adding either a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare Supplement plan. Even though Original Medicare Part B covers physical therapy, the cap will hold you back. Adding Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplements may give you the coverage you need to pay the bills.
The good news is that everyone who is eligible for Original Medicare is also eligible for Medicare Advantage and Medicare Supplement plans. You can’t have both, so you’ll have to choose one.
Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private insurance companies and are designed to add additional covered services like dental, vision, hearing, fitness, and in some cases even Medicare transportation benefits.
Alternatively, Medicare Supplement plans do not provide coverage for additional services but instead provide additional financial coverage. These plans are designed to help you pay for your coinsurance, copayments, and deductibles. You’ll have to decide what makes the most sense for you and your needs: more financial coverage, or more covered services?
Need A New Medicare Plan?
Our agents can help you decide if Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplements are right for you. We have agents in 38 states and we’re constantly growing!
Plus, our agents are licensed to sell plans from all insurance carriers in your area, which means we are NOT biased. We can help you set up an appointment with an agent who will show you how to choose the right Medicare plan for your needs.
Most seniors and Medicare beneficiaries will have to wait until AEP (October) to change plans. Check out our post about Special Election Periods to see if you qualify for a SEP. Not sure if you qualify? That’s OK. Your licensed agent can help you find out if you qualify. Give us a call at 1-844-431-1832 or click here to have Medicare Plan Finder call you.
This post was originally published on January 4, 2018, and was most recently updated on August 1, 2019.