The Med Diva

An insider's guide to Medicare Part D and more

Medicare Covers Yoga and Meditation Through Ornish Program for Heart Disease

Medicare covers yoga and meditation for reversing heart disease.

Last night I was working out in the gym alongside my neighbor, June, who is about 70 years old. June is a master swimmer and is currently training for a triathlon this summer. Although she enjoys her workouts in the gym, she told me she would love to do more yoga, but weekly classes can be expensive.

So I thought it quite ironic when I opened my email today and came across an article with a headline that caught my eye: Medicare covers yoga. Wow, this is great, I thought. I can’t wait to tell June.

Well, it turns out that the headline was slightly misleading. Medicare Part B does now cover yoga, but only through Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease. This program falls under a new benefit category created by Congress in 2009 called “intensive cardiac rehabilitation” or ICR.

While traditional cardiac rehab (covered by Medicare since 1982) focuses almost exclusively on exercise, the Ornish program combines low-fat, whole food nutrition with stress management, meditation, and yoga to reverse the damage to your heart. It is the only program scientifically proven to reverse heart disease that is currently offered in hospitals, clinics, and physician offices and covered by Medicare and other private insurance companies.

Am I eligible for coverage?*

Medicare Part B will cover up to 72 one-hour sessions for beneficiaries who have had one or more of the following:

Within the preceding 12 months:
• An acute myocardial infarction
At any time:
• A coronary artery bypass surgery
• Current stable angina pectoris
• Heart valve repair or replacement
• Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty or coronary stenting
• A heart or heart-lung transplant
• Other cardiac conditions as specified through a national coverage determination

*From “Ornish Programs Reimbursed by Medicare.”

Where is the program offered?

Currently, the program is only offered at select hospitals in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Connecticut, and Oregon. But according to the program’s website, the Preventive Medicine Research Institute is just starting to train and certify providers, so they expect the site network to grow “significantly” in the next few months.

I don’t think June will qualify for this program—I’ve seen her lift 70 pounds in the gym and swim non-stop laps in the pool for a half hour or more—but I’m going to let her know about it just in case. At the very least, she can spread the good news to other seniors who may benefit from Dr. Ornish’s program. And you should too!


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