Does Medicare Cover Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic therapy, also known as water therapy or pool therapy, is a form of physical therapy that takes place in a pool or other water-based environment. This therapeutic approach has gained popularity for its ability to assist individuals in managing various medical conditions and physical ailments. However, understanding the potential cost of aquatic therapy and whether it is covered by Medicare is crucial for beneficiaries. In this article, we will delve into what aquatic therapy entails, how much it typically costs, and whether Medicare provides coverage for this treatment.

What is Aquatic Therapy?

Aquatic therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy conducted in a pool or similar water-based setting, typically under the supervision of a trained therapist. This type of therapy harnesses the unique properties of water, such as buoyancy, resistance, and hydrostatic pressure, to provide a therapeutic environment that can be beneficial for a wide range of medical conditions and physical impairments.

The key features of aquatic therapy include:

  1. Buoyancy: Water supports the body, reducing the impact on joints and allowing individuals to perform exercises with less pain and strain. This property is particularly beneficial for people with arthritis, joint pain, or musculoskeletal conditions.
  2. Resistance: The resistance of water helps build and tone muscles. Exercising in water provides a safe and effective means of enhancing strength, balance, and coordination.
  3. Hydrostatic Pressure: The pressure of the water can help reduce swelling and improve circulation. It can be advantageous for individuals with conditions such as edema or circulatory issues.
  4. Reduced Weight-Bearing: Aquatic therapy is especially useful for individuals with weight-bearing restrictions due to injuries, surgeries, or conditions like osteoporosis.

Conditions Treated with Aquatic Therapy

Aquatic therapy is employed in the treatment and management of a wide range of medical conditions, including but not limited to:

  1. Musculoskeletal Disorders: Arthritis, back pain, joint injuries, and fibromyalgia.
  2. Neurological Conditions: Stroke, multiple sclerosis, and cerebral palsy.
  3. Orthopedic Injuries: Post-surgery rehabilitation, fractures, and ligament injuries.
  4. Chronic Pain: Chronic pain conditions that can benefit from exercise and movement therapy.
  5. Cardiovascular Conditions: Hypertension and peripheral vascular disease.
  6. Balance and Gait Disorders: Dizziness, balance problems, and gait abnormalities.

The therapeutic interventions performed in the water are tailored to each individual’s needs, making aquatic therapy a versatile and personalized form of treatment.

Cost of Aquatic Therapy

The cost of aquatic therapy can vary significantly depending on various factors, including location, the type of facility, the expertise of the therapist, and the individual’s health insurance coverage. On average, a single aquatic therapy session may cost between $50 and $150, but this cost can be higher in some areas.

Most individuals who opt for aquatic therapy attend multiple sessions as part of their treatment plan. The number of sessions required is determined by the individual’s specific condition and goals, as well as the therapist’s recommendations.

The total cost of aquatic therapy can accumulate over time, potentially making it a significant financial consideration for those in need of this treatment. To address this concern, many people look to their health insurance, including Medicare, to provide coverage for aquatic therapy.

Does Medicare Cover Aquatic Therapy?

Medicare is a federal health insurance program that provides coverage for eligible beneficiaries, primarily individuals aged 65 and older, as well as some younger individuals with certain disabilities. The extent of Medicare coverage for specific treatments and therapies, including aquatic therapy, can be complex and may vary depending on several factors.

Medicare consists of different parts, each covering specific aspects of healthcare:

  1. Medicare Part A: Hospital Insurance Medicare Part A primarily covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care, and some home health services. Aquatic therapy is typically an outpatient service, so Part A coverage may not apply to this form of treatment.
  2. Medicare Part B: Medical Insurance Medicare Part B covers medically necessary outpatient services, including physical therapy and other rehabilitative services. Aquatic therapy may be covered under Part B if it is deemed medically necessary and performed by a qualified healthcare professional.

To determine whether aquatic therapy is eligible for coverage under Medicare Part B, it must meet the following criteria:

  • The therapy is prescribed by a healthcare provider.
  • It is considered medically necessary to treat a specific condition.
  • It is provided by a therapist or facility that accepts Medicare assignment, meaning they agree to accept Medicare’s approved amount as payment in full.
  1. Medicare Part C: Medicare Advantage Medicare Advantage plans, offered by private insurance companies approved by Medicare, provide an alternative way to receive Medicare benefits. These plans often include additional coverage for services like aquatic therapy. However, coverage and costs can vary depending on the specific plan.
  2. Medicare Part D: Prescription Drug Coverage Medicare Part D primarily covers prescription medications, not services like aquatic therapy.

It is important to note that while Medicare may cover aquatic therapy under certain conditions, it does not cover the cost of membership at a gym or fitness club with a pool. It only covers the therapy itself, which is conducted under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider.

Coverage Guidelines for Aquatic Therapy

The coverage of aquatic therapy under Medicare Part B follows specific guidelines:

  1. A healthcare provider must prescribe aquatic therapy as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for a covered medical condition.
  2. The aquatic therapy must be conducted by a licensed healthcare professional, such as a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or qualified healthcare facility.
  3. The provider must accept Medicare assignment, which means they agree to the Medicare-approved amount as full payment for the service.
  4. Medicare beneficiaries must pay their annual deductible and any applicable coinsurance for Part B services, including aquatic therapy.
  5. Documentation of the medical necessity of aquatic therapy is essential. Healthcare providers and therapists must maintain accurate records to justify the treatment and ensure compliance with Medicare regulations.

To further understand the coverage specifics and potential out-of-pocket costs, beneficiaries should consult their healthcare providers and Medicare administrators.


Aquatic therapy offers a unique and effective approach to addressing a wide range of medical conditions, and it has become a sought-after form of treatment for many individuals. The cost of aquatic therapy can vary based on location, facility, and individual needs, making it a potentially significant financial consideration.

Medicare, the federal health insurance program, may provide coverage for aquatic therapy under specific conditions. It falls under Medicare Part B, which covers medically necessary outpatient services. To ensure eligibility for coverage, it is crucial to have a healthcare provider prescribe the therapy, receive treatment from a qualified healthcare professional, and choose a provider that accepts Medicare assignment.

Ultimately, while Medicare can assist in covering the cost of aquatic therapy, individuals seeking this form of treatment should be prepared to navigate the complexities of the Medicare system and engage in open communication with their healthcare providers to ensure proper documentation and compliance with Medicare guidelines.

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