As of January 1, 2019, approximately 1.2 million seniors across will lose their SilverSneakers coverage on Medicare Advantage plans that give them access to gyms and health centers without any additional membership costs. The controversial business decision will affects plan holders in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, and Utah who have Medicare Advantage plans with UnitedHealthcare.
An additional 1.3 million seniors across nine states with Medicare Advantage plans with Medicare supplemental (Medigap) insurance will also lose their access to the SilverSneakers program. States affected by this move include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin. Although the benefits were optional with UnitedHealthcare, millions of seniors nonetheless took advantage of the option to visit gyms and fitness centers for exercise.
Beginning next year, UnitedHealthcare will instead offer seniors with Medicare Advantage supplemental policies will get 50 percent off memberships at thousands of gyms across the country, telephone access to wellness coaches and access to various online communities and health-related resources. Seniors with UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans can join Renew Active, the company’s health and fitness program which offers a network of over 7,000 locations members can visit for no additional cost and even qualify for evaluations from personal trainers and online brain-training programs.
AARP has itself become a focal point for the frustrations of many seniors affected by UnitedHealthcare’s decision to no longer offer SilverSneakers, since the advocacy group endorses UnitedHealthcare’s Medigap and Medicare Advantage insurance policies. For many seniors, it can be extremely difficult to switch policies, since federal laws may require seniors to undergo a medical evaluation after an initial “guarantee issue” period which occurs six months following a person’s enrollment in Medicare.
For those who are able to switch plans, Tivity Health will offer SilverSneakers through more than 65 health insurance plans covering more than 15 million older adults and introducing a new digital platform that emphasizes its social benefits called SilverSneakers Connect. Tivity Health’s new offering may be enticing to lure enough seniors to switch plans from UnitedHealthcare and possibly complex the insurance company to again offer the SilverSneakers program. Previously, health insurance provider Humana ceased offering its SilverSneakers program and faced enough backlash from its members that it was eventually compelled to make the plan available to its 3.5 million members.