Amid New Talks About Department of Health Fitness Recommendations, UnitedHealthcare Cuts SilverSneakers

Last week, the US Department of Health released a new set of health guidelines, specifically targeting adults and the elderly. The primary goal of the changed guidelines? Move more, sit less. However, executives at UnitedHealthcare, an American healthcare provider, must not have gotten the memo. Since October, the healthcare provider has released a list of Medicaid plans that they are cutting SilverSneakers from. The change will impact the Medicaid plans held by seniors across 21 states.

In place of the SilverSneakers program, UnitedHealthcare will offer a new set of fitness programs tailored to their customer’s needs. Plans include a phone hotline, where subscribers can call in for personalized fitness advice, 50% off gym memberships at specific gyms and fitness training centers, and other mental and physical well-being benefits. According to Steve Warner, coordinator of the UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage program, the move was to reach “a broader portion of our membership [and provide a] wider variety of fitness resources.”

While nearly five million seniors are without their SilverSneakers benefits, there are approximately 1.9 million UnitedHealthcare seniors who still retain their memberships–as the decision to cancel SilverSneakers benefits came as a market-by-market, state-by-state decision. For the seniors who have lost their interests, there is often no easy way to get information about alternatives. In classes at the 15,000 participating SilverSneakers gyms across the country, it’s usually a frequent topic of discussion.

Other insurance carriers, like the much-smaller Trivinity Health, carry SilverSneakers benefits for seniors–but switching insurance policies can be frustrating, and in some places, outlawed by law. Federal law requires seniors to receive a new health evaluation before making the switch, except within the first six months of the last assessment.

Do you think UnitedHealthcare will bring back SilverSneakers? Let us know in the comments below!

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