Does Medicare Cover Music Therapy?

Last Updated : 10/06/20184 min read

Research has shown that music therapy may have some value in treating certain health conditions. For example, it might help reduce agitation and depression, and help with motor skills (movement), according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

What is music therapy?

The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as the use of music to help people with their emotional, social, and cognitive (brain function) needs.

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A trained music therapist might work with patients by having them listen to music, move to the music, sing, or play instruments.

Music therapy for various health conditions

Health-care providers may use music therapy, in different ways, for a number of different illnesses or conditions, according to the NIH. Here are a few examples:

  • Alzheimer’s disease symptoms
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Huntington’s disease
  • Stroke

Music therapy doesn’t cure these conditions, but studies show that they can help relieve symptoms, the NIH reports. In some cases, music therapy may result in health improvements; for example, a 2015 study with Parkinson’s disease patients showed that music helped participants’ movements. Musical rhythm may help improve the nervous system pathway between hearing and movement, researchers reported.

How music therapy might help treat some health conditions

Music appears to affect the parts of the brain that control emotion, thought processes, motivation, and movement, the NIH reports. In some studies, music therapy had a calming effect on terminally ill patients, resulting in a slower heartbeat and possibly improved circulation. Other studies showed that music therapy (in cancer patients, for example) could help ease anxiety and pain.

Music therapy helped patients diagnosed with depression, according to the National Library of Medicine. The therapy reduced their symptoms of depression and anxiety. It also helped people with depression get interested and actively involved in everyday life and social interaction.

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The researchers emphasized that although study results seem promising, more study is needed to understand whether, and how, music therapy may help patients with various health problems.

Music therapy and Alzheimer’s or other dementia

The Chicago Tribune reported on a man in 2015 who lived in a dementia facility. A former professional musician, he had dementia – his memory was failing, and he couldn’t manage the tasks of daily living. But he still enjoyed playing the piano, and played almost daily in the lobby of the facility. He could still play well; many thought he was hired entertainment.

Music has an effect on many parts of the brain, while speech only involves a certain area, said a neuroscientist at Northwestern University who was quoted in the article. “[Music] engages the totality of the brain — centers that process … sound, memory, attention, language, sight, touch and more. It sparks neural activity within each of these centers and sets them in motion together in a way few other experiences can,” the neuroscientist said.

Does Medicare cover music therapy?

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) may cover certain kinds of therapy (physical or occupational therapy, or speech-language pathology) that your doctor orders for you as medically necessary. For example, Part B might cover activity therapy that includes music therapy to treat mental health conditions. However, doctors might not always consider music therapy to be medically necessary.

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