Skip to content

Uh, Is Health Coaching Covered By Insurance? Here's The Simple Answer

Emma Loewe
August 11, 2023
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
Brunette woman wearing pink shirt with sitting in front of a computer looking at her phone
Image by Studio Firma / Stocksy
August 11, 2023

Health coaching is a quickly emerging field in the health care industry. Coaches work closely with clients to help them work toward their health goals—be it losing weight or sleeping better. While they can't prescribe medication or run tests, coaches guide clients using a combination of personal support, motivation, and positive psychology.

As more people begin to benefit from personalized coaching, the American Medical Association (AMA) is taking note. "By bridging the gap between the physician and patient, health coaches can help practices improve patient engagement in their care, leading to healthier patients with better outcomes," reads a recent statement by the AMA.

Although health coaching has gained legitimacy in the medical field, there's one final hurdle to tackle before it goes totally mainstream: getting it covered by insurance. Here's the latest on whether insurance will cover your health coaching visits—and why that may soon change.

Is health coaching currently covered by insurance?

Insurance isn't the most straightforward topic, but the simple answer to this question is not really.

As of 2020, health coaching sessions (individual and group sessions administered by a certified coach) are considered Category III services. In insurance terminology, they are emerging services that don't yet have enough data backing them up to warrant widespread use (compared to Category I services, which are accepted across the board). While most insurers accept Category I claims, they do not accept Category III claims under normal circumstances.

That said, Category III is a temporary designation. Once an emerging industry is granted this status, it has the green light to compile the evidence and data needed to move to Category I. Many in the field are optimistic that health coaching will soon work its way up this insurance legitimacy ladder.

For now, the best way to save some cash on your health coach sessions is to dip into your flexible spending accounts (FSA) or health savings accounts (HSA). In order to use these pretax funds, you'll need to submit a letter of medical necessity from your primary care provider that explains why the health coaching service is needed.

You can also see a coach through a functional care provider like Parsley Health, which accepts in-network insurance for its monthly membership plan in select states (currently New York and California).

How the NBHWC is working to make coaching more accessible

The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) is the main certifying body for health coaches, and it's been instrumental in securing Category III status for the field. It's also leading the charge to achieve Category I designation by setting a high standard for its certified coaches, gathering evidence on the efficacy1 of health coaching, and increasing awareness of health coaching among primary providers.

This last piece is especially important. Most doctors have relatively little time to spend with each patient, and the average primary care exam visit only lasts 18 minutes. Health coaches can play a much more hands-on role and take their time to help translate doctors' orders into a digestible plan for patients. Research also finds that the "peer-like" relationship that develops between coaches and clients2 helps people feel like they're more in control of their own health. The power dynamic that exists in a doctor's office fades once you step into a coaching session. For these reasons, many doctors are starting to see health coaches as partners in patient care. Gaining insurance coverage will help this increasingly important industry become more accessible to the masses.

If you're looking for a health coach (or even thinking about becoming one yourself), it's important to pay attention to certifications. In order to submit for insurance, coaches currently need to be certified by either the NBHWC or the NCHEC. Coaches have to complete a certain number of practice hours and pass an exam before they can achieve these certifications.

The takeaway

While health coaching sessions are not currently accepted by most major insurance providers, there's momentum to change that. Getting claims for this important service covered will be a big step toward making it accessible to those who really need it (read: most of us).

Emma Loewe author page.
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.