How Does Medicare Cover Arthritis?

According to the Arthritis Foundation, arthritis is the leading cause of disability among adults in the U.S. It’s estimated that roughly 54 million adults have been doctor-diagnosed with arthritis.

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The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis – roughly 31 million Americans are affected by this type. Although the second type, rheumatoid arthritis, is less common, the number of women affected by this form of arthritis far outnumbers men.

Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between the joints to deteriorate. Rheumatoid arthritis causes the lining of the joint to grow inflamed and swollen. Symptoms of arthritis may vary depending on what form of arthritis you have, but common symptoms include joint stiffness, pain, swelling in the joints and decreased body mobility.

Not only is living with arthritis physically painful, managing your arthritis can also be a pain and financial burden to your bank account, especially if you are retired or about to retire. Good news for those Americans with arthritis about to retire – Medicare does, in fact, help cover the cost to treat and manage your arthritis.

How will Medicare cover an arthritis diagnosis?

Diagnosing arthritis can be done by a variety of tests and doctor visits. Some of these tests may include x-rays, blood work, MRIs and CT scans. If you go to get tested either by a primary physician or a specialist such as a rheumatologist, these tests and doctor’s visits are considered “outpatient medical services.”

Medicare Part B covers medically necessary outpatient care for arthritis.  According to Medicare, a medical service is considered medically necessary if it is “needed to diagnose or treat an illness, injury, condition, disease, or its symptoms and that meet accepted standards of medicine.”

Although most people qualify for premium-free Part A, Medicare Part B is not premium-free. In 2019, most people pay $135.50 in monthly premiums for their Medicare Part B coverage. Once you meet the Part B annual deductible of $185, Part B covers 80% of expenses for outpatient medical services and you pay 20%.

It’s important to know that Medicare Part B doesn’t have an out-of-pocket spending cap, so you will have to continue to pay 20% of costs every time you use your Medicare Part B insurance. If you buy a Medicare Supplement plan, also known as a Medigap plan, you’ll have secondary insurance that pays your 20% after Medicare pays its share.

How will Medicare cover arthritis treatment?

Treatment for arthritis depends heavily on the type of arthritis you have. However, treatments for both types come in forms of surgery, medication and alternative medicine.

If your treatment plan requires surgery, Medicare Part A covers your in-patient hospital services such as your room, meals, and recovery. Part B pays for doctor services related to your surgery.

Medicare Part D covers most prescription drugs you take at home, but always confirm that the prescriptions you need are listed on the formulary. Common prescriptions for treating arthritis are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), corticosteroids, analgesics, and disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs).

Most Part D plans used a tiered copayment system; generic drugs are in the bottom tier and cost less out of pocket. DMARDs, biologics, and other specialty drugs are typically at a higher tier, so you’ll have a larger copayment.

Medical marijuana treatment

Currently, there are 23 states that have legalized medical marijuana to be used for certain medical conditions. Of those 23 states, only some have legalized it to be used for paint treatment in arthritis patients. Other countries whose legalization on medical marijuana are less strict such as Canada and Australia, have said that more than 1/3 of medical marijuana users use it for arthritis.

However, because the FDA hasn’t approved medical marijuana as a safe and effective medical treatment, Medicare will not cover it. On the other hand, the FDA has begun to recognized the potential of cannabis products. So, perhaps we will see a change in the future.

Is physical therapy covered under Medicare?

Yes! As long as physical therapy is medically necessary to treat your arthritis, Part B covers it. There are no spending caps for physical therapy services as of 2019. Before 2019, Medicare only paid about $2,000 for physical therapy services, but you don’t have to worry about that going forward.

Even though Original Medicare pays many costs associated with diagnosing and treating arthritis, you still have financial exposure. If you’re concerned about your out-of-pocket costs under Part A and Part B, you may want to consider a Medicare Supplement Plan.

Alternatively, you may find you come out ahead financially with a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans usually have lower copayments and coinsurance amounts, and your Part D prescription drug coverage is usually included. Plus, you’ll generally have just one deductible as opposed to separate deductibles for Part A and Part B. Many arthritis sufferers find that a Medicare Advantage plan makes more financial sense for them.

Study: Cannabis Can Slow, Cure Alzheimer’s Disease

Article updated in May 2020 adding new resources and studies to the article

A study conducted by researchers at the Roskamp Institute in Florida, and published in the journal Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience,MMMA LEAF AND SYMBOL_full has found that cannabis can slow the effects of Alzheimer’s Disease, and may in fact be able to halt it entirely.

According to Corbin Bachmeier, Ph.D – who’s the lead researcher of the study – Alzheimer’s Disease is “the result of impaired Aβ [Amyloid-β protein] clearance from the brain”. According to this study, cannabis can solve this problem, making it a potential treatment.

Here’s the study’s abstract:

Read moreStudy: Cannabis Can Slow, Cure Alzheimer’s Disease

Study: Strong Majority of Hospice Professionals Support Medical Marijuana

A large majority of hospice  professionals support medical marijuana, according to a new study published in The Journal of Palliative Medicine and published online by the U.S. National Institute of Health.

For the study – titled A survey of hospice professional regarding medical cannabis practices – researchers surveyed a nationally representative sample of 310 hospice professionals (primarily nurses) from 40 states. 91% of respondents said that they endorse medical marijuana for hospice patients. In addition, 90% stated that they have fielded questions from patients regarding medical marijuana, and 73% said that they’ve had a patient who has used it.

The study states that “[R]egardless of legal status, hospice staff overwhelmingly support patient access to MC (medical cannabis). Those who practice in states where MC is not yet legal wish that it was.”

Read moreStudy: Strong Majority of Hospice Professionals Support Medical Marijuana

New Mexico Adds Opioid Use Disorder and Other Ailments as Qualifying Medical Marijuana Condition

New Mexico health officials on Thursday expanded the list of qualifying conditions for the state’s medical cannabis program to include opioid use disorder and several others, reports the Associated Press.

In addition to adding opioid use disorder, officials added Alzheimer’s disease, autism spectrum disorder and three degenerative neurological disorders.

First-year Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D), a former state health secretary, campaigned on a pledge to open up the medical marijuana program to people struggling with opioid use and addiction after the previous administration rejected petitions for the change.

Read moreNew Mexico Adds Opioid Use Disorder and Other Ailments as Qualifying Medical Marijuana Condition

Presence Of THC In Blood is Not Associated With Crash Culpability, Finds Study

According to a new study, drivers who test positive for THC do not possess a significantly increased risk of being responsible for a non-fatal motor vehicle accident.

For the study, researchers at the University of British Columbia compared the likelihood of crash responsibility in drivers testing positive for THC and/or other substances as compared to drug-free drivers over a six-year period (2010 to 2016).

As reported on by NORML, the state found that, “In this multi-site observational study of non-fatally injured drivers, we found no increase in crash risk, after adjustment for age, sex, and use of other impairing substances, in drivers with THC<5ng/ml. For drivers with THC>5ngml there may be an increased risk of crash responsibility, but this result was statistically non-significant and further study is required. … Our findings … suggest that the impact of cannabis on road safety is relatively small at present time.”

Read morePresence Of THC In Blood is Not Associated With Crash Culpability, Finds Study

Study: Medical Marijuana Legalization Associated With Lower Opioid Prescription Rates

According to a new study published by the journal Preventive Medicine, medical marijuana legalization is associated with reduced opioid prescription rates.

The study, titled “Association between cannabis laws and opioid prescriptions among privately insured adults in the US,” analyzed how different cannabis laws influenced the rate of opioid prescriptions among adults from different age groups in 2016.

According to High Times, who first reported on the study, researchers examined the relationships between a few different variables. First, age, breaking it up into five groups, 18-25, 26-35, 36-45, 46-55, and 56-64 years. Second, changes in state cannabis law, whether decriminalization, medical legalization, or adult-use legalization. And third, the pattern and rate of opioid prescriptions, broken down into greater than 30-day and greater than 90-day prescriptions.

Read moreStudy: Medical Marijuana Legalization Associated With Lower Opioid Prescription Rates

Illinois Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana

Legislation to legalize marijuana for everyone 21 and older has been passed in an overwhelming vote by the Illinois Senate.

The Illinois Senate voted Wednesday to pass the bill, sending it to the House for consideration with just a couple days left in the legislative session. The vote was 38 to 17, with just two Republicans voting in favor, reports the Associated Press.

“This bill is going to set the model, I believe, the gold standard for how to approach social equity issues, relating (to) cannabis legalization,” Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, the bill’s chief sponsor, said in her closing statement on the Senate floor.

Read moreIllinois Senate Approves Bill to Legalize Marijuana

Over 150 Athletes Sign Letter to World Anti-Doping Agency Asking for Removal of Marijuana from Prohibited List

Over 150 current and former athletes have signed a letter that’s been sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency, asking them to remove marijuana from its list of prohibited substances.

Mike Tyson (Photo: Biography.com).

Retired NFL players Jake Plummer and Ricky Williams, famed boxer Mike Tyson and cyclist Floyd Landis are among the athletes who submitted the letter through Athletes for CARE, a nonprofit organization that advocates for marijuana research to treat a variety of ailments.

“Athletes for CARE is proud to have such a strong network of respected athletes campaigning for the removal of cannabis from the World Anti-Doping Agency’s prohibited substance list,” Anna Symonds, a rugby player and Athletes for CARE representative, said in a statement. “We’re also calling on fans to show their support online via our Change.org petition.”

Read moreOver 150 Athletes Sign Letter to World Anti-Doping Agency Asking for Removal of Marijuana from Prohibited List

California is Moving Forward With a Plan to Establish Marijuana Banks

The Associated Press is reporting that California is quickly moving forward with a plan to establish a system of banks to work with the marijuana industry which is legal under state law, but illegal under federal law.

Given that legal marijuana businesses are shut out of the traditional banking system by federal laws, proponents of the new push argue that they would benefit if the state approves a measure creating a special class of banks to handle pot money.

The state Senate voted 35 to 1 on Tuesday to pass a bill that would allow people to start banks and credit unions that could accept cash deposits from marijuana retailers.