This article was updated January 8, 2020.
In late 2018, some Medicare Advantage and Medigap providers announced they were dropping the popular fitness program for seniors–SilverSneakers. While the program is not covered by Original Medicare, it’s very popular with Medicare Advantage and Medigap enrollees who still have the benefit. When insurers like UnitedHealthcare (UHC) began dropping the program in 2019, many enrollees were angry, and other insurers have followed suit.
Which insurers have dropped SilverSneakers?
UnitedHealthcare announced it was dropping the program from its coverage in 2018. As a result, 2.5 million people lost SilverSneakers coverage in states like Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, North Carolina, Utah, and Wisconsin.
In 2015, Humana briefly dropped the program but brought it back shortly after due to consumer pushback. More recently, providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee dropped its coverage, and YMCAs across the country severed their relationship with the program as well.
Steve Warner, leader of the UnitedHealthcare product team, said 90 percent of policyholders with SilverSneakers coverage “never step foot in a gym.”
What is SilverSneakers?
SilverSneakers is a program that grants qualifying Medicare beneficiaries access to 16,000 gyms across the country. The benefit is included with some Medicare Advantage and Medigap policies, so you won’t have to pay an additional premium or membership fee for it.
That means that if you have SilverSneakers, you won’t have to use hotel gyms while traveling, and you can branch out and explore other gyms in your area as well. You can take Zumba classes at one gym, lift weights at another, and swim laps at yet another gym–as long as all locations participate in the SilverSneakers program.
Types of exercise classes built especially for seniors include:
- The Cardiofit class offers low-impact aerobic exercises to build core strength and stamina.
- The Stability class makes daily living easier and safer by strengthening core muscles, ankles, knees, and improving balance.
- The Boom series is similar to high-intensity Zumba classes, and is meant for seniors who like rhythm with their workouts.
However, gyms aren’t the only participating SilverSneakers locations. Many classes and activities are also offered at senior living homes, local parks, and community rec centers.
UnitedHealthcare’s new fitness program
When UnitedHealthcare, the country’s largest private insurance provider, dropped coverage of the program, it simultaneously launched its own fitness program for seniors called Renew Active. Renew Active has a network of more than 7,000 gyms, and has additional benefits like telephone access to wellness coaches and online communities as well.
More information about SilverSneakers
If you can’t get to the gym, SilverSneakers also has a library of on-demand workout videos. You can also use the SilverSneakers GO app to schedule and track activities, find participating locations, and access your program benefits.
See if you are eligible for SilverSneakers benefits.