Yoga therapy allows those who are suffering from certain health conditions to find relief when other medical interventions fail or are less desirable. But for most who consider it, they must ask themselves a pressing question: “Does insurance cover yoga therapy?” In most cases, insurance either does not cover yoga therapy or only covers it under very specific circumstances.
As more and more people learn about yoga therapy and seek it out, I hope to see this change! That’s why I believe that it’s always worth consulting your specific insurance plan to see what’s covered and checking back for any new developments. Yoga therapists can also account for these challenges by making sure they are well-versed in seeking reimbursement from different insurance companies, working clinic days with shorter appointments at a discounted price, offering online yoga therapy options to reduce overhead, or providing payment plans or sliding scale fees with more flexibility.
Keep reading to learn more about when insurance might cover yoga therapy, what clients should do if insurance won’t cover yoga therapy, and more.
If your insurance doesn’t cover yoga therapy, you’re in the same situation as the majority of clients who seek yoga to treat a health condition. If the cost of yoga therapy is a concern, there are options available that can help.
Ask about sliding scale fees, payment plans, or discounted appointments. In order to make yoga therapy more accessible to a wider range of clients, some yoga therapists offer sliding scale fees, payment plans, or discounted appointment options. Ask any yoga therapist you’re interested in if they offer any more flexible options such as these.
Look for lower-cost clinics. Aware of the fact that yoga therapy may be cost-prohibitive to certain clientele, some yoga therapists work at clinics that can offer shorter sessions at lower rates. Similarly, some yoga therapists will set aside specific clinic days to serve clientele at lower rates with shorter appointments for part of the week.
Consider online options. Another way to lower costs is to provide yoga therapy online to reduce overhead, especially with pre-recorded sessions that focus on a particular health condition. In fact, this is something that we’re working to provide at Breathing Deeply to help serve a broader clientele. Contact us today to learn more about these offerings.
To date, I am only aware of a single program that is breaking ground by offering yoga therapy that can be covered by insurance. As the yoga therapy industry continues growing and working toward more widespread acceptance, I hope to see even more programs like these.
The Ornish Reversal Program at Saline Heart Group offers an Ornish Lifestyle Medicine™ Program for cardiac rehabilitation. There is a certified Yoga Therapist on staff, along with a Medical Director, Program Director, Exercise Physiologist, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Registered Nurse, Group Support Specialist, and Administrative Assistant. Together, they provide 18 sessions over 9 weeks to help prevent or reverse heart disease, diabetes, and many other chronic illnesses. According to Saline Heart Group, most health insurances will provide coverage for the program.
In most circumstances, it does not appear that UnitedHealthcare plans cover yoga therapy. Your best bet is to call the phone number on your health plan ID card to see what is included in your plan. If you’re eligible for UnitedHealthcare’s Sweat Equity Program, you may be able to seek reimbursement for yoga therapy.
Your UnitedHealthcare benefits can differ based on your location or plan, so you’ll need to determine your personal eligibility. In Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, and Washington, for example, yoga is included in the list of complementary and alternative medicine services that are not covered, along with meditation, tai chi, Pilates, and more. California also does not cover yoga, massage therapy (unless it is part of an authorized physical therapy treatment plan), meditation, Pilates, tai chi, and more.
One possible workaround is UnitedHealthcare’s Sweat Equity Program, a physical fitness reimbursement program. To qualify, you must have an active membership in an eligible insurance plan and attend eligible fitness facilities or classes a total of 50 times in a 6-month period. If you meet these requirements, you could receive up to $200 in reimbursement.
Yoga is listed among the examples of qualifying fitness centers and classes for the Sweat Equity Program. If you receive yoga therapy through an approved facility or class, you may be eligible for reimbursement through the program.
As with many other major insurance companies, it can be difficult to get any type of yoga covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield. But this insurance may cover yoga therapy under the right circumstances.
The best way to determine your coverage is to speak to a BCBS representative by calling the number on your insurance card. Coverage can differ based on your plan or location, so you’ll need to determine what you’re eligible for and what you aren’t.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois (BCBSIL) offers the BlueExtrasSM Complementary Alternative Medicine (CAM) Discount Program, for instance. This program covers up to 30% of standard fees for eligible participating practitioners, spas, and wellness and fitness centers.
Meanwhile, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts offers a Living Healthy Naturally® program. This covers up to 30% of standard fees at in-network alternative health practitioners in 10 different disciplines across all 50 states. The 10 disciplines are:
Qi (chi) gong
Some Blue Cross Blue Shield members may also have access to the Blue 365 Program, which offers up to 30% discounted from holistic and wellness offerings, such as
The Blue 365 Program offers discounts on eligible health and fitness memberships, programs, classes, equipment, and sportswear. To see if you are eligible, you should consult your BCBS plan or call the number on your insurance card.
At this time, Aetna does not offer yoga therapy among its eligible complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services. However, you may be able to get certain yoga products and services at a discount through the Aetna Natural Products and Services Program.
Aetna has approved acupuncture, biofeedback, chelation therapy, chiropractic services, and electrical stimulation as alternative medicine interventions that are eligible for properly selected members with applicable benefit plans. Yoga is among the list of alternative medicine interventions that are still considered investigational and experimental by Aetna.
Anyone who has an Aetna health insurance plan or health benefits has access to the Aetna Natural Products and Services Program for free, however. Most other major health insurance companies have a similar program, but it is not often available to all members for free.
Aetna’s program provides discounts on complementary health care services and natural products offered by American Specialty Health Networks, Inc. These include:
Nutritional and herbal supplements
It’s unclear whether any yoga programs would be eligible under the program. As with other insurance providers, the best way to confirm whether you can receive any coverage for yoga therapy is by checking your healthcare plan or by calling the number on your insurance card.
Cigna does not currently cover any yoga services under the umbrella of exercise or movement therapy or under mental health and substance use disorder services. However, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services such as yoga could be eligible for coverage if they are included in approved rehabilitative or habilitative therapy treatments.
Given these restrictions, it is unlikely that you will receive coverage for yoga therapy with Cigna insurance plans. Cigna’s Healthy Rewards® Program, available to medical, behavioral, and dental plan members in select states offers alternative health and wellness products and services at discounts up to 25%. However, at this time, only yoga products such as mats, gear, and online classes are included.
As with other healthcare providers, the best way to check your coverage is by looking at your specific plan or calling the number on your insurance card to ask.
It does not appear that Humana insurance covers yoga therapy. However, Humana’s Special Discounts Program can provide savings on select complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) providers and services.
According to Humana, the Special Discounts Program offers discounts up to 30% and access to over 35,000 licensed practitioners across over 35 CAM specialty areas, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and nutrition services. These providers and services are available through WholeHealth Living Choices® (WHL Choices) by Tivity Health.
Humana’s Special Discounts Program may not be available in every state. To confirm whether you are eligible for yoga therapy coverage through your insurance or the Special Discounts Program, review your plan or call the customer number on the back of your member ID card.
It is highly unlikely that Medicare will cover yoga therapy. Even massage therapy, which could fall under a similar category as yoga therapy, is only very rarely covered by Medicare.
There is a lot that is currently not covered by Medicare, including such staples as routine dental and vision care. I would expect to see more sought after benefits covered before yoga therapy.
The fastest way to determine if a yoga therapist’s services will be covered by Medicare is to ask that therapist or the facility they work for if they accept Medicare as a billing option. If you find a therapist or facility that is contracted with a carrier of an Advantage Plan, you can contact that carrier directly to see if you have any coverage options.
Other options include trying to get yoga therapy prescribed as physical therapy through a physical therapy facility, which Medicare may partially cover. Medicare Advantage plans or Medigap supplement policies may include gym or fitness center membership within their benefits, although Original Medicare Part A and Part B do not. If you could apply that coverage to a gym or fitness studio that offers yoga therapy, you may be able to get it covered.
Speaking to a Medicare agent, however, he said he would be surprised to see yoga therapy covered by Medicare.
As with Medicare, it is unlikely that Medicaid will cover yoga therapy. However, there are some circumstances to look for if you’re hoping to make a case for Medicaid to cover your yoga therapy.
According to “Medicaid Reimbursement for Alternative Therapies,” a study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, “A growing number of complementary and alternative therapies are eligible for reimbursement by third party payers in the United States. . . . Of the 46 states participating in the study, 36 Medicaid programs (78.3%) provide coverage for at least 1 alternative therapy. The most commonly reimbursed therapies are chiropractic by 33 programs (71.7%), biofeedback by 10 programs (21.7%), acupuncture by 7 programs (15.2%), and hypnotherapy and naturopathy by 5 programs each (10.8%). Many Medicaid programs are paying for the use of CAM [complementary and alternative medicine].”
While yoga therapy is not listed among the most common complementary and alternative medicine therapies that were reported as being reimbursed by Medicaid programs, it is possible that it will become covered as yoga therapy grows in popularity and usage. The article also notes that it did not research awareness among Medicaid recipients about these opportunities, so it is possible that coverage may be available but it is not being utilized.
If your state has allowed yoga therapy to be considered a treatment for pain management or behavioral health with Medicaid, then you may be able to request reimbursement. You may also want to check to see if yoga in general is considered an acceptable treatment. If so, you may be able to apply Medicaid coverage to yoga therapy if it is provided through certain yoga classes as part of an in-patient treatment at a behavioral health facility, for example.
The best way to check if Medicaid covers yoga therapy in your plan is to contact your provider directly. Medicaid policies can differ from state to state and provider to provider, so it’s important to determine your specific options and eligibility.
Yoga does not fall under the 10 essential health benefits that all plans offered in the Marketplace are required to cover under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, different states and different plans may offer other services and additional benefits.
There are several parts of the ACA that may be relevant to complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). The ACA prevents health insurance companies from discriminating against healthcare providers when it comes to their coverage or participation in healthcare plans, which could include CAM providers. The law also discusses creating community health teams, which could include chiropractors and other licensed CAM practitioners, for patient-centered care.
CAM coverage differs from state to state and plan to plan, so the best way to see what will be covered under the ACA is to compare specific Marketplace plans and their offerings in your state. If it is unclear whether a plan will cover yoga therapy, you can call the plan to ask if it is covered.
If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), or Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA), you may be able to cover yoga therapy under specific circumstances. If your doctor produces a letter of medical necessity (LMN) and prescribes yoga to treat a specific medical condition, then you may be able to receive coverage. By contrast, you will not be covered by an HSA, HRA, or FSA if you are practicing yoga because your doctor said you should get more exercise in general.
To ensure that you are eligible, you should review your specific HSA, HRA, or FSA plan or call your plan to consult a representative about your coverage.
In some situations, accident settlements and no fault insurance cover yoga therapy. However, not every state requires no fault insurance, and the details for these plans and any settlements will differ.
Getting coverage for yoga therapy will depend on the terms of an accident settlement or the coverage included in a particular no fault insurance plan. Research the specifics of your situation in order to determine your eligibility or speak to a professional.
I founded Breathing Deeply to help make yoga therapy accessible to as many people as possible. For us, that means training new yoga therapists first and foremost, but also helping clients in diverse populations.
We offer yoga therapy training for students at every level of yoga expertise. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve already completed your 200-hour yoga teacher training certificate and you’re ready for advanced training, I’m excited to help you become a certified yoga therapist. Learn more about our yoga therapy training courses and apply to one of our programs today.
To help bring quality yoga therapy to more people, I’m also developing online yoga therapy courses to treat specific health conditions. If you cannot find a yoga therapist covered by insurance, contact us to learn more about these upcoming courses to see if we can help.
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