- Medicare doesn’t cover any cosmetic or elective treatments, including Botox.
- However, Botox can be used to treat some medical conditions.
- Medicare does offer overage when Botox is used as a medically necessary treatment.
Botulinum toxin, commonly known as Botox, is an injectable treatment that’s been in use since 1987. Botox injections are commonly used to treat wrinkles. However, the muscle-relaxing effects of Botox can also treat a handful of medical conditions.
Medicare and other insurance companies won’t pay for Botox when you use it for cosmetic reasons, but they do offer coverage for Botox as a medical treatment.
Read on to learn when Medicare may cover Botox injections, how to qualify for coverage, alternative options to consider, and more.
Botox is most often used for cosmetic procedures. A cosmetic procedure is one that improves your appearance but doesn’t treat a medical condition.
For example, if you want Botox treatment to address wrinkles, it’s considered a cosmetic procedure. This is almost never covered by any insurance company, including Medicare.
Medicare covers only procedures and treatments that are considered medically necessary. Medicare considers a procedure medically necessary when it’s used to prevent or treat a health condition.
The same rules apply if you have Medicare Advantage (Part C). Even though Medicare Advantage plans often cover additional services — like vision care, dental care, or prescription drug coverage — cosmetic treatments like Botox aren’t included.
However, there are times when Botox injections are considered medically necessary. The FDA has approved Botox as a medical treatment for a few different medical conditions.
Medicare will pay for this treatment if your doctor recommends it for one of these conditions.
Medicare will cover Botox injections if your doctor orders them to treat an approved condition. Since Botox can relax muscles, it’s often used to treat conditions caused by muscle stiffness or spasms.
Some of these conditions include:
- Migraine. Migraine episodes often take the form of chronic, severe headaches that can last for hours or even days.
- Severe neck (and other muscle) spasms. Muscle spasms are an involuntary and often painful twitching in your muscles. They tend to occur in the neck, arms, legs, or eyes.
- Overactive bladder. An overactive bladder causes a frequent and urgent need to urinate and can lead to incontinence.
- Overactive sweat glands. Overactive sweat glands is when your body produces too much perspiration, or sweat. This can lead to dehydration and difficulty maintaining hygiene.
- Crossed eyes. When you have crossed eyes, your eyes don’t focus correctly, which can lead to pain and difficulty seeing.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder. TMJ disorder is a condition that causes your jaw to click or lock. It can lead to jaw pain and trouble eating.
Medicare provides coverage when Botox injections are being used to treat any of these conditions listed above. However, it’s a good idea to get preauthorization from Medicare or your Medicare Advantage provider.
Preauthorization is when your insurance company agrees to pay for a procedure before you have it. It’s usually not needed for routine things like office visits or bloodwork, but getting it before a costly procedure like Botox ensures you’ll have coverage.
You can take a few steps to increase the chances that Medicare will cover your Botox procedure, though there’s no guarantee you’ll get coverage approval.
Steps you take include:
- Have your Medicare-approved doctor submit a request to Medicare. The request should detail why Botox is medically necessary to treat your condition.
- Send records of your condition to Medicare. Gather and send as many records about your condition and other treatments you’ve tried to Medicare. For example, if you’ve tried several prescription drugs to treat migraine and they haven’t worked, you should send Medicare those records. Your doctor might be able to provide the records if you don’t have them.
- Contact Medicare. You can contact Medicare directly by calling 800-MEDICARE (800-633-4227). Explain your condition and see if you’re eligible for coverage. The Medicare representative might be able to tell you whether there are any specific documents they need to see or additional steps you need to take.
The steps for getting coverage might be slightly different depending on the reason you need Botox. For example, if you need Botox for migraine, Medicare will need to see proof of:
- a diagnosis of chronic migraine
- documented symptoms of chronic migraine
- documentation that at least two other forms of treatment have failed
Your doctor can help you figure out the documentation you need. If you’re still not sure, it’s a good idea to call Medicare and follow the steps they give you.
Unfortunately, Medicare might still deny your coverage, even when you take all these steps.
You can still receive Botox injections if Medicare denies coverage. However, you’ll need to pay 100 percent of the costs out of pocket. This is true no matter what kind of Medicare coverage you have.
Your costs will depend on the number of Botox sessions you need and how much of the drug is required in each treatment session.
If Medicare denies your coverage and you decide not to get Botox, you still have other options. When the Botox was meant for a medical condition, you can talk to your doctor about other available treatments.
Here are few examples of alternate treatments you can look into for medical and cosmetic reasons.
Your doctor might recommend new medications or a new combination of medications to treat chronic migraine. For example, many people are helped by taking a combination of antidepressants and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medications.
Medicare Part D will cover most of the prescription drugs you’d need in these categories.
For muscle spasms
You might be prescribed a muscle-relaxing medication to help with your neck or other muscle spasms. If so, Medicare Part D will cover your prescription.
For overactive bladder
Medications that relax your bladder can provide relief from an overactive bladder. You can get coverage for these prescriptions through Medicare Part D.
For overactive sweat glands
A prescription antiperspirant can help treat overactive sweat glands. Many prescription antiperspirants are covered under Medicare Part D.
For crossed eyes
Eye drops can help treat crossed eyes. You might receive these eye drops in your doctor’s office or have a prescription you use at home.
Drops given by your doctor will be covered under Medicare Part B, while drops you use at home will be covered under Part D.
For TMJ disorders
NSAIDs can help with the pain of TMJ disorders. You can get coverage for prescription NSAIDS under Medicare Part D.
For cosmetic reasons
If you’re looking into Botox for appearance reasons and hoping it would be covered, you may have some other options. These options won’t be covered by Medicare either, but they can reduce your treatment costs.
If you’re looking for more affordable options, consider:
- skin creams
- facial patches
- chemical peels
Other treatments are pricier but might still cost less than Botox. These include:
- other injectable treatments
If you’re not sure what the best alternative is for your situation, talk with your doctor or a skin care specialist. They’ll have recommendations and might even be able to figure out what’s most likely to be covered by Medicare.
Remember that even if Botox doesn’t end up being the right treatment for you, you still have options.
- Medicare won’t cover Botox when it’s used for cosmetic reasons.
- Botox has been approved as a treatment for multiple medical conditions, and Medicare does offer coverage for medically necessary Botox.
- You can look into alternatives if Medicare denies your claim for coverage.