Medicaid, Gym Membership and Older Adults

In this article...
  • Learn if Medicaid provides gym membership for beneficiaries and discover other options for staying fit through Medicare, health insurance and senior centers.

The CDC states that regular physical activity provides significant benefits to older adults. Despite this, many seniors find it difficult to get enough exercise. Organized exercise through a gym or classes may help encourage regular activity, which is why you may be wondering if Medicaid provides gym membership as part of the benefits. 

Does Medicaid Cover Gym Membership?

Medicaid coverage is different from state to state, so whether gym membership is provided will depend on where you live.

According to federal guidelines, a gym membership isn’t a benefit that must be provided by Medicaid, and in most states, it’s not included. However, some states received federal grant money in the 2010s to test using incentives to improve health outcomes. In these states, Medicaid often used gym memberships as part of weight loss initiatives. Other states may partner with YMCA/YWCA or other community organizations to run health programs.

Your state’s Medicaid office will be able to tell you more. 

Does Medicare Cover Gym Membership?

For older adults who have Medicare instead of or in addition to Medicaid, gym membership may be available through that plan. Although Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and B) doesn’t cover fitness center membership, some Medicare Advantage plans may offer gym membership as part of their plan benefits. 

Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, is provided by private health insurance companies that cover all the benefits offered by Original Medicare and can offer extra benefits to clients. Many include gym membership as part of these extras.

Medicare Advantage plans generally reimburse memberships up to a certain amount of money. This may cover the full amount of a membership, or there may be a gap. Some companies only cover a certain percentage of the costs, so make sure to check your plan carefully. Plans marketed to members of senior organizations, such as Medicare Advantage plans offered by AARP, often include these types of incentives to encourage seniors to stay active. 

What About Silver Sneakers?

Silver Sneakers is an affordable fitness program aimed at older adults. Members get access to gyms and community locations across the country. This can include fitness classes, walking tracks, tennis courts and swimming pools, depending on the location. It also offers community events and online health education. 

Many insurance companies offer membership to Silver Sneakers to their plans. The Silver Sneakers website has information about eligible plans, or you can check with your insurance provider. Some insurance companies may have similar programs, although Silver Sneakers remains the largest and most well-known. 

Other Ways for Older Adults to Stay Fit

If you can’t access gym membership through your health insurance or would prefer not to join a gym, there are still ways to stay active. Gardening and yard work remain popular fitness activities for people aged 65 and older, and towns and cities often have walking and cycling trails for residents to enjoy.

Many senior centers and Area Agencies on Aging also offer health and fitness classes as part of their regular activities, letting older adults stay active while also becoming part of a vibrant community.