Parkinson’s Disease & Medicare: What You Need to Know

Man with Parkinson's Disease

With the vast majority of Parkinson’s diagnoses occurring after age 60, it’s important to understand your Medicare coverage.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder affecting the nervous system. After Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the U.S. In fact, nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. each year.

According to the most recent data :

  • One million Americans have Parkinson’s disease.
  • More than 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s.
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
  • Most people (90-95%) are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease after age.

Symptoms and diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease

Early signs of Parkinson’s disease may go unnoticed. Additionally, since symptoms vary from person to person, early diagnosis of the disease is difficult.

The first sign of the disease may be a slight tremor in one hand. During the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, a person’s face may show little expression, and their arms may not naturally swing when they walk. Stiffness and changes in a person’s speech patterns are also common.

Here are the most common Parkinson’s disease symptoms:

  • Trembling hands or fingers
  • Slowed movement
  • Dragging or shuffling feet
  • Rigid muscles that limit movement and range of motion
  • Stooped posture
  • Problems with balance
  • Decreased ability to perform unconscious activities, such as blinking, smiling, or swinging arms while walking
  • Speech changes

Visit your healthcare provider if you have any of these symptoms. While they may not mean that you have Parkinson’s, they may be symptoms of a treatable disease.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific test to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. Instead, a neurologist will review the patient’s medical history and symptoms and complete a neurological and physical examination before diagnosing the condition. The neurologist may also order other tests to support or rule out Parkinson’s disease as a diagnosis.

Because of the nature of the disease and the lack of specific tests, it may take time to receive a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Parkinson’s disease treatment and Medicare coverage

Although Parkinson’s disease can’t be cured, your healthcare provider may recommend increased aerobic activity and other exercises focused on balance and stretching. Also, medications, surgical procedures, and other treatment options might significantly improve the patient’s symptoms.

Medicare typically covers treatment. Here are some of the most common Parkinson’s disease treatment options.

Medications to treat Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s is known to cause lowered levels of dopamine in the brain. Low dopamine levels cause particular brain cells to break down or die, leading to tremors and other problems with movement.

Healthcare providers often prescribe medications that act the same way as dopamine when treating Parkinson’s. In addition, they may prescribe COMT inhibitors, which prolong or enhance the effect of the dopamine medications.

Drugs are also sometimes prescribed to treat mood disorders common to people with Parkinson’s. For example, a doctor may prescribe MAO inhibitors or antipsychotic medications to treat apathy, anxiety, and depression, as well as psychosis.

You may have significant improvement in your symptoms after beginning the medication. However, the positive effects of the drugs frequently diminish or become less consistent over time.

Medicare Part D covers at-home prescription medications. A Part C plan may also cover prescribed medications. It’s essential to check that any medication you take or may need later is covered under your Medicare plan.

Surgical procedures and Parkinson’s

There aren’t any surgeries that halt the progression of the disease. However, a surgical procedure such as deep brain stimulation may reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

For deep brain stimulation, a surgeon implants electrodes into the brain. The electrodes are connected to a generator that is implanted in the chest. Both work together to send electrical pulses to the brain. These pulses can reduce tremors and body rigidity.

Your treatment team might recommend a Duopa pump if your oral dopamine medication has become less effective. Following this procedure, a Duopa pump delivers the drug directly into the small intestine.

Medicare Part A covers hospital stays and surgeries such as deep brain stimulation and the insertion of a Duopa pump. Medicare Part A also covers inpatient hospital care, medications given in a hospital setting, limited home health care, or intermittent skilled nursing facility care.

Other treatment options for Parkinson’s disease

A patient with Parkinson’s may also benefit from other treatment options besides prescribed medications and surgery.

For example, physical and occupational therapists can teach the patient exercises and techniques to maintain everyday activities, such as eating, drinking, walking, sitting, and handwriting.

Speech therapists can help people with weakened muscles in the larynx, mouth, tongue, lips, and throat maintain verbal communication and swallowing skills.

Patients who experience reduced mobility also benefit from assistive devices like walkers, wheelchairs, electric mobility scooters, canes, commode chairs, and hospital beds.

Depression, anxiety, psychosis, and problems with cognition are all potential symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Mental health and counseling services also benefit patients with Parkinson’s.

Medicare Part B covers outpatient medical needs, including general practitioner and specialist appointments. Medicare Part B also covers Durable Medical Equipment, which the patient may need once the symptoms progress.

Additional resources

Florida native Eric Ruge lives by one rule: Do the right thing. His goal as a Medicare agent is helping people find the right Medicare coverage for their unique medical needs and budget. He believes everyone deserves the peace of mind they get knowing they made the right decision about their Medicare coverage. When he's not working, Eric enjoys spending time with family and friends, watching Tampa sports, and playing the occasional round of golf.


Find a Medicare Plan in your area

It’s FREE with no obligation

Speak with a Licensed Insurance Agent

M-F 8:00am-10:00pm | Sat 9:00am-6:00pm EST