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How Medicare Advantage Plans are Expanding Fitness Benefits with Pickleball Reimbursements

If you’re actively comparing Medicare Advantage Plans, then odds are good that you’ll likely find some kind of fitness benefit with the plan.

Over the years, Medicare Advantage Plans have expanded their fitness benefits and availability. This has led to plans offering a wider variety of options on how people can stay active and healthy – ranging from traditional gym memberships to discounts on Pickleball equipment.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the growing push from older adults to stay healthy and how these adults are doing it through their Medicare Advantage Plans.

Does Original Medicare Cover Fitness Memberships?

Simply put – no. Original Medicare, Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) and Medicare Part B (medical insurance), does not include fitness or gym memberships.

However, there are a few situations where Original Medicare does cover some kind of fitness benefit. These examples include medically necessary physical therapy to treat an injury or illness, weight-loss counselling, group physical activity for diabetes prevention and nutrition therapy for people with diabetes or kidney disease.

If you’re looking for something resembling a traditional fitness or gym membership to accomplish your health goals, then you’ll need to look elsewhere.

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Fitness Memberships with Medicare Advantage

Staying fit has its benefits no matter the age, which is why people who are eligible for Medicare and interested in Medicare Advantage Plans seek policies with fitness benefits.

Almost all Medicare Advantage enrollees – 99% – are in plans with a fitness benefit in plan year 2023.1 However, the type of fitness benefit will vary depending on which insurance carrier and policy type you choose.

For example, some insurance providers such as Humana and Aetna partner with SilverSneakers® as a fitness benefit on select plans and polices.  SilverSneakers is a fitness program for those age 65 and older who want to stay active by partnering with local gyms and fitness centers. Members can stay active by taking group fitness classes, on-demand content and other health-related content on a smartphone app.

On the other end of the same spectrum is UnitedHealthcare which uses their own fitness program called Renew Active. This program includes access to a large network of fitness centers – even premium gyms – and online classes from home with access to Fitbit Premium. Renew Active also uses AARP’s Staying Sharp which offers cognitive exercises to help keep your brain sharp.

These programs offer great opportunities for those who enjoy exercising in a traditional fitness center setting. But what if going to the gym was never your thing? Fortunately, you have options.

Pickleball is Exploding in Popularity

There’s a good chance you know someone who is a pickleball player if you’re not already one yourself. Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America and Time describes it as a cross between tennis, badminton and ping-pong. A major appeal is that it’s a low-impact game that’s easier on the joints when compared to tennis.

Pickleball gained popularity during the COVID-19 Pandemic and was recently featured in an episode of ABC’s “The Golden Bachelor.” According to a 2022 Sports & Fitness Industry report, 52% of pickleball’s core players – people who play more than eight times a year – are over the age of 55 and 32% of the total players are 65-plus.2

The popularity boom isn’t lost on insurance carriers. For example, Aetna launched a new SmartFit Medicare Advantage Plan in Plan Year 2024 that includes a fitness reimbursement benefit of $600 for activities such as pickleball, golf and other sports.

So, if the cost of pickleball paddles is holding you back from giving one of fastest-growing sports in America a try, then this added benefit may be worth considering.

Let Ensurem Help You Start Your Fitness Journey

If you’re ready to start making better fitness decisions and want to leverage your Medicare insurance to so do, then Ensurem is here to help. Our team of licensed insurance agents can be your “Medicare Personal Trainer” and get you in shape in the ways of finding a plan that best fits your needs. Call the number on your screen to speak with a licensed team member.

Are you more of an online shopper? Check out Ensurem’s online comparison tool. There you can see plans available in your area and even enroll online.

Ensurem Trusted Expertise

Education is crucial in finding the right Medicare solution for you. With so many Medicare resources out there, it can be difficult finding a source you can trust. That’s why Ensurem has a Compliance Program dedicated to ensuring our Medicare content meets Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations. So, you can rest assured you’re getting the information you need to make the right coverage decisions.

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1 “Medicare Advantage in 2023: Premiums, Out-of-Pocket Limits, Cost Sharing, Supplemental Benefits, Prior Authorization, and Star Rating,” Kaiser Family Foundation (Accessed 10/31/23)
2 “Why Older People Love Pickleball So Much,” Time (Accessed 10/31/23)

Denise Austin, 65, Ensurem Ambassador

Best-Selling Author, Creator of Fit Over 50 Magazine

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