Medicare Part B covers medically necessary speech-language therapies when provided by qualified healthcare practitioners. Both short- and long-term options may be covered.
Speech therapy involves the treatment of the tongue, mouth, and vocal cords, as well as the muscles and nerves that connect these organs to the brain.
Speech therapy is essential for treating and improving a person’s overall communication skills.
This article will look at speech therapy, what it is, why it may be beneficial, and the Medicare coverage available.
We may use a few terms in this piece that can be helpful to understand when selecting the best insurance plan:
- Deductible: This is an annual amount that a person must spend out of pocket within a certain time period before an insurer starts to fund their treatments.
- Coinsurance: This is a percentage of a treatment cost that a person will need to self-fund. For Medicare Part B, this comes to 20%.
- Copayment: This is a fixed dollar amount that an insured person pays when receiving certain treatments. For Medicare, this usually applies to prescription drugs.
Speech-language pathology is a health service that helps individuals regain or improve their voice, speech, language, and swallowing skills.
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs), also called speech therapists, provide the treatment.
Speech therapy may help a speech disorder that developed in childhood. It may also be beneficial for an adult speech condition due to a brain injury or illness, muscular disorder, or stroke.
A person may be required to pay the Part B deductible. In 2020, the deductible for Part B is $198, and, once paid, a coinsurance of 20% usually applies to eligible costs.
Medicare does not limit how much it pays for medically necessary outpatient therapy services within a calendar year.
However, if costs exceed a certain amount, a medical report may be required for further treatment to be authorized.
Eligibility for outpatient therapy
A person may be eligible for Medicare-covered outpatient therapy services if:
- they require skilled therapy services and a healthcare provider decides that the service may provide safe, effective treatment for the health condition
- a doctor or therapist provides a written plan of care before the person starts their treatment
- the plan of care is updated or changed as needed
If a person meets the requirements for SLP services, Medicare may provide coverage, whether the health condition is temporary or long-term.
Therapy services may be performed in:
- a doctor’s office
- an outpatient hospital setting
- a rehabilitation agency
- a comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility
- a public health agency
- a person’s place of residence (via a home health agency)
- a skilled nursing facility
As of 2020, Medicare-approved speech therapy services via telehealth may be eligible for coverage.
This is so health care providers can provide speech therapy services while reducing the transmission of COVID-19.
Below is an overview of five of the most common speech-language disorders.
Alalia, often referred to as speech delay, occurs when a child is not using age-appropriate communication.
For many disorders that cause a speech delay, early diagnosis and intervention by a qualified speech therapist can make a difference.
Aphasia is a disorder caused by damage to the brain’s speech and language center. Aphasia affects a person’s ability to speak and understand both verbal and written language.
The disorder usually occurs after a head injury or stroke. It may also gradually occur from a degenerative brain disease or as a result of a tumor.
People of any age may experience Aphasia, although speech therapists often treat the disorder in adults who have experienced a stroke or a traumatic brain injury.
A speech therapist may evaluate a person’s:
- reading ability
- writing ability
- general communication
- hearing comprehension
- verbal expression
Also, a speech therapist may help the person improve their language skills and assist in developing coping strategies.
Apraxia of Speech (AOS)
Apraxia occurs when the neural pathway between a person’s brain and their speech function is lost or concealed.
An individual may know what they want to say or write, but the brain is not able to send the correct message. This makes it very difficult for a person to say what they would like, even though their speech muscles are in perfect working order.
AOS in adults is also known as Acquired AOS, and a stroke with resulting damage to the brain could be the cause.
Symptoms of dysarthria include:
- slowed speech
- slurred speech
- restricted tongue, jaw, or lip movement
- an abnormal rhythm and pitch during speech
- changes in voice quality
- difficulty articulating
- labored speech
Dysarthria may be caused by nerve or muscle damage to the lips, tongue, diaphragm, and vocal cords.
The most common causes of Dysarthria in adults are tumors, stroke, and Multiple Sclerosis.
A speech therapist can help a person with Dysarthria by:
- exercising the speech muscles
- breath training and instruction
- helping the person slow down when they speak
Lisps are common speech disorders that usually develop in childhood. The disorder is usually noticed when the child makes a “th” sound instead of an “s” sound when speaking.
If a lisp is caused by an irregularity with the teeth, such as an interdental or dentalized lisp, this usually corrects itself as a child grows.
Speech therapy may benefit a child if they reach 4 years of age, and a lisp is still present.
Treatment for lisping includes:
- pronunciation and enunciation coaching
- re-teaching the sound of a word
- practice speaking in front of a mirror
- speech-muscle strengthening such as drinking through a straw
A speech-language pathologist may ensure that the lisp is not confused with another speech disorder like aphasia, apraxia, hearing loss, or irregular development.
Speech therapy is a health service that helps people regain or improve their voice, speech, language, and swallowing skills. Qualified speech-language therapists perform the treatment.
Speech therapy may be required for a child with a speech disorder or for an adult with speech impairment caused by injury or illness.
Medicare Part B helps to pay for medically-necessary outpatient speech therapy. Out-of-pocket costs may apply.
If a person meets the requirements for speech therapy, Medicare may temporarily cover either short or long-term treatment.