Nutrition Help Now Covered By Medicare

In a move that may eventually influence benefits packages offered by private insurers, Medicare this year expanded preventive services to include nutrition therapy and pain management for some patients.

Medicare HMOs must provide the same benefit coverage as fee-for-service Medicare. But coverage eventually could extend beyond the basics; the New York Times reports that dieticians hope that HMOs begin to recognize the value of their services for other enrollees.

The benefits, activated on Jan. 1, were initially available to more than 7 million beneficiaries with diabetes or kidney disease. The benefit may in time be applied to other conditions.

Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, told the paper, "There is enormous potential for medical nutrition therapy to save taxpayers' dollars and improve the quality of life for patients."

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