Medical Nutrition Counseling - Under Utilized Medicare Benefit

An estimated 1 in 4 people 65 and older have diabetes and 1 in 3 have chronic kidney disease. Kidney disease is often a complication of diabetes.

In 2002, Congress approved personal nutritional counseling for people with diabetes or kidney disease to be covered by Medicare.  However, most patients and physicians are not aware of this benefit. The estimated 15 million Medicare enrollees with diabetes or chronic kidney disease are eligible. In 2017 the federal health insurance program for people, 65 and older (and some with disabilities) paid for only about 100,000 recipients to get nutritional counseling. The data does not include the 20 million enrollees in private Medicare Advantage plans.

During the first year the benefit is used, Medicare pays for three hours of dietary counseling. And during subsequent years, it covers 2 hours of dietary counseling. If the physician believes additional nutritional therapy is necessary, the doctor can appeal to Medicare.

A referral to a dietician can be life-changing as many patients think they are eating healthy but do not realize some small changes that can really affect their health. Sadly, it is easier for doctors to prescribe a medication than it is to take the time to discuss the importance of nutrition.

If you have diabetes or kidney disease, you can search for a Registered Dietician Nutritionist and ask your doctor for a referral.