Feb 14, 2024 • 6 min read

Does Medicare Cover Dietitians & Nutritionists?

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Dietitians and nutritionists are nutrition professionals who can help you meet your health goals by creating personalized recommendations and guidance for issues such as weight loss, chronic disease management, general healthy eating, and much more. 

But does Medicare cover visits with nutritionists and dietitians? 

Medicare Part B will cover visits with a Registered Dietitian (RD) for those who suffer from diabetes or kidney disease but not with a nutritionist. 

Medicare Part B covers 100% of the cost of medical nutrition therapy visits with an RD for those with these conditions. You may also qualify for visits if you have had a kidney transplant within the last three years. 

A doctor must provide a referral for dietitian services. If you do not meet these qualifications, Medicare will not provide coverage. 

This guide will go over everything you need to know about using Medicare for a nutritionist or dietitian, including when you’re covered, how to find a dietitian, and more.

When Medicare covers dietitians & nutritionists

Medicare will cover visits with a dietitian for medical nutrition therapy (MNT). This means you won’t have a co-insurance payment or a deductible. However, if services fall outside of the requirements, there may be additional out-of-pocket charges.

MNT can only be provided by a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD is different from a nutritionist, so make sure you are working with someone with the RD credentials. 

MNT includes a nutrition-based treatment plan that incorporates a nutrition diagnosis to help manage a chronic condition such as diabetes or kidney disease.

To be eligible for Medicare Part B coverage for dietitian services, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Have a diagnosis of diabetes (type 1 or 2), have a diagnosis of kidney disease, or have had a kidney transplant within the last 36 months
  • Have a referral from your primary care physician for your dietitian
  • Be scheduled with a Registered Dietitian or state-approved nutrition counselor 
  • See an RD or state-approved nutrition counselor who accepts Medicare

Unfortunately, Medicare does not offer coverage for RD services for weight loss. However, weight loss may be an additional benefit of meeting with an RD for another condition, such as diabetes. 

Those who have a BMI of 30 or higher will qualify for coverage from Medicare Part B for an obesity screening and behavioral counseling but not MNT, unless they have diabetes or kidney disease as a secondary comorbidity.

Those who are eligible for RD visits under Medicare Part B will receive full coverage for up to three hours of MNT for the first year and two hours each following year. Visits can be individual or in group settings. Those in rural areas may qualify for telehealth options.

Some may qualify for additional MNT visits with a doctor’s recommendation. Additionally, individuals with chronic kidney disease who are receiving dialysis will be granted Medicare Part B coverage for MNT visits as a part of their care.

How many dietitian visits Medicare will cover

Those who qualify for Medicare Part B coverage of dietitian services will be granted three hours of MNT services for the first year and two hours for each subsequent year. But how many visits with a dietitian does this equate to?

There are no specific guidelines under Medicare Part B regarding the number of dietitian visits, only the length of time MNT services can be provided. The number of visits this equates to will depend on the length of each visit which will vary by provider. 

For example, many RDs provide initial consultations that are 45 to 60 minutes in length. Follow-up visits are typically shorter in duration, such as 30 to 45 minutes but again, this will vary by provider. 

If an RD provides 60-minute initial consultations and 30-minute follow-up visits, then you will be able to obtain five total sessions (one initial visit and four follow-up visits) covered by Medicare Part B for a total of three hours of MNT services. 

How much your dietitian visit will cost with Medicare coverage

If you qualify for Medicare Part B coverage for dietitian services, then you will pay nothing out of pocket as long as you meet the requirements. There will be no co-insurance or required deductible for these services unless you go beyond the approved number of hours.

Any additional diagnostic tests that may be recommended during your sessions may not fall into approved services and may require out-of-pocket costs.

How to get Medicare to cover dietitian visits

If you are interested in obtaining coverage for dietitian services, and you meet the required criteria, then the first step is to obtain a referral from your primary care physician.

Obtaining a referral may or may not require a visit to your primary care physician. Most physicians will require a visit in which you will discuss your desire to meet with a dietitian to help you with your conditions. 

From there, your physician will determine if they agree with your request. If they do, they will provide you with a physical referral, or if they work with a qualifying dietitian, then they may send an electronic referral directly to the dietitian.

If an electronic referral is sent, be sure to discuss the next steps with your physician so you can get scheduled. Below are the steps to obtain your first covered Medicare session with a dietitian for MNT services:

  1. Verify coverage
  2. Obtain a referral from your primary care physician to see an RD
  3. Find an RD or qualifying nutrition counselor who accepts Medicare Part B assignments
  4. Make your first appointment

Understanding Medicare parts & coverage for nutritionists & dietitians

Medicare coverage for MNT services is limited to Medicare Part B. Medicare Parts A, C, and D have different qualifying requirements and may or may not cover MNT services. Below are the different Medicare parts and their coverages for nutritionists and RDs:

  • Medicare Part A. Medicare Part A, also known as hospital insurance, does not cover RD or nutritionist services, only inpatient hospital visits, skilled nursing facility care, hospice care, and home health care. Inpatient RD services are not included.
  • Medicare Part B. Medicare Part B offers three hours of MNT services with an RD or state-qualifying nutrition counselor for the first year and two hours for each subsequent year for those who have a history of diabetes (type 1 and 2) or kidney disease.
  • Medicare Part C. Medicare Part C, also known as Medicare Advantage Plans, offers the same benefits as Medicare Part A and B and sometimes additional coverage. Medicare Part C will cover MNT services under the same requirements as Medicare Part B.
  • Medicare Part D. Medicare Part D helps cover prescription drug costs and is often added to an original Medicare plan or Medicare Advantage Plan (Part C). MNT coverage will depend on the original Medicare Plan but will likely be covered under the same requirements as Part B.

What to expect in your appointment with a dietitian

If you are planning to work with an RD as a part of your covered Medicare services, you might be wondering what to expect. Below are some common things you can expect during your initial RD visit for MNT services. 

  • Intake paperwork. Your RD will likely require intake paperwork before your initial session. This will include questions regarding your health history, recent labs, anthropometric data, and a food frequency questionnaire. 
  • Initial assessment. During your initial session, your RD will perform an assessment that includes evaluating your current diet and lifestyle habits, challenge areas, and goals. This will help them tailor their recommendations to meet your unique needs.
  • Personalized plan. Following the initial assessment, your RD will create a personalized plan that includes recommendations and goals to work on between visits based on the information you discussed.
  • Follow-up appointments. During follow-up sessions, your RD will evaluate your progress and address any barriers or questions that have come up between your sessions.

Other ways to cover nutritionist & dietitian visits

If you feel you would benefit from meeting with an RD, but your Medicare plan will not cover RD visits, there are a few other options available. Below are some other potential considerations for those looking to schedule with an RD or nutritionist.

  • Self-pay. Many RD practices offer self-pay as an option as insurance coverage can be challenging. Be sure to contact your desired RD office before scheduling an appointment to see if they offer self-pay options. Some may even allow for payment plans.
  • Switch to a private insurance plan. Many private insurance plans, including those through an employer or the Healthcare Marketplace, offer RD coverage. If you’re looking for a plan that covers RD services, be sure to inquire about this before signing up.
  • See if you qualify for Medicaid. If you are eligible for Medicaid, certain states offer coverage for MNT services, but others do not. Be sure to check what services Medicaid will cover in your state before scheduling with an RD. 
  • Consider community resources. If you do not qualify for any of the above options, find a community health center in your area. Community health centers (CHCs) can be found in both rural and urban locations and offer free or low-cost health services. Some offer group or individual nutrition counseling services.
Meghan is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist from San Jose, California. She received her undergraduate degree from San Diego State University in 2015. Following an unexpected cross-country trip that landed her in Florida, she completed her didactic training through AdventHealth Orlando. Meghan has extensive experience in multiple aspects of dietetics including critical care, motivational interviewing, writing, and research. She is passionate about health and wellness and has dedicated her free time to breaking down complicated nutrition topics and disseminating them to the public through the arena of writing.