Does Medicare Cover the Ensure Drink?

Jory Cross by Jory Cross | Licensed since 2012
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This article was updated on: 09/12/2018

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The Ensure drink is a brand-name for a nutrition shake which can be used as meal replacement or a meal supplement. According to ensure.com, some Ensure drinks “are designed to provide complete, balanced nutrition to help people maintain or gain a healthy weight, particularly for patients who are at risk of malnutrition or are experiencing involuntary weight loss.”

What’s in the Ensure drink?

The original Ensure drink requires no preparation and comes in flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry. The original Ensure drink contains 9 grams of protein and vitamins such as A, C, D, E, K, B12, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. The original Ensure drink also contains minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and zinc. An 8-ounce bottle is 220 calories. Original Ensure includes sugar, milk protein concentrate, canola oil and soy protein isolate as some of its ingredients. The Ensure brand has other Ensure drink products, such as Ensure High Protein with 16 grams of protein in an 8-ounce bottle, or Ensure Plus, which has 350 calories in an 8-ounce bottle.

Does Medicare cover the Ensure drink?

Medicare generally does not cover dietary supplements like the Ensure drink, even in situations such as hospice where the Ensure drink is the only calories the patient is taking. Medicare Part D covers prescription drugs, but generally does not cover any over-the-counter vitamins, dietary supplements, or nutritional drinks.

Where can I get the Ensure drink?

You do not need a doctor’s prescription to get the Ensure drink. You can find it at many grocery stores and certain drugstores and department stores that sell food. You can also buy the Ensure drink online.

Senior nutrition with the Ensure drink

Some older adults may start taking the Ensure drink after a certain health event, such as a major surgery or cancer treatment. Other older adults may start taking the Ensure drink when they or their doctor notice they are losing weight. According to the National Library of Medicine, involuntary weight loss is a common phenomenon among older adults. Problematic weight loss is defined as a loss of 5% of the body weight in one month or 10% over a period of six months or longer. There may be physical, mental, or social reasons for unexplained weight loss in older adults.

Physical reasons include:

  • Acute illness
  • Constipation
  • Pressure ulcers
  • Pain
  • Medications that can cause weight loss
  • Eating, chewing and swallowing problems
  • Reduced appetite

Mental reasons include:

  • Depression
  • Bereavement
  • Dementia or confusion

Social reasons include:

  • Reduced social activity
  • Eating alone
  • Low income

According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition in older adults can result in a weakened immune system, increased risk of infections, poor wound healing, and muscle weakness which can lead to falls. According to a study published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) options for oral nutrition support should be considered for any patient taking inadequate food and fluid to meet their requirements. The study lists options, such as nutritionally complete pre-packaged drinks such as the Ensure drink.

According to health.gov, males 61 and up with sedentary lifestyle should consume approximately 2,000 calories per day. Females age 51 and up with sedentary lifestyle should consume approximately 1,600 calories per day. Your doctor may recommend the Ensure drink if you are not getting enough calories through regular meals or if you have trouble eating at all.

Protein is an essential element of nutrition. According to a study published by the NIH, protein undernutrition can result in anemia, physical weakness, vascular dysfunction and weakened immunity. The recommended dietary allowance for a healthy adult with minimal physical activity is 0.8 grams of protein per kg body weight per day, according to the NIH. This translate 0.36 grams per pound. This means a 120 pound adult female would need about 43 grams of protein per day. A 170 pound adult male would need about 61 grams of protein. If the 120 pound adult woman was not taking any additional calories, she would need to drink 2.7 Ensure drinks with high protein (16 grams per bottle) to get her daily protein. If the 170 pound adult man was not taking any additional calories he would need to drink 3.8 Ensure drinks with high protein (16 grams per bottle) to get his daily protein.

If you have other questions about ensure drinks or would like more information, I’d be happy to help. To set up a time to talk one-on-one about your Medicare needs, click the link below. You can also request an email from me with personalized Medicare information; you’ll find that link below as well. To start browsing on your own, click the Compare Plans button on this page.

This is article is not intended to be medical advice. Consult your doctor before changing your diet.

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