RDNs and Medical Nutrition Therapy Services

Contributors: Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN
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Health professionals agree that nutrition services are one of the first treatments that individuals should receive to improve conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.

Many registered dietitian nutritionists work in the treatment and prevention of disease by providing medical nutrition therapy. The RDN often acts as part of a medical team, in various practice settings, such as hospitals, physician offices, private practice and other health care facilities.

Medical nutrition therapy is covered by a variety of insurance plans. Under the Medicare Part B Program, you can receive nutrition services to help improve your health. Medicare Part B covers medical nutrition therapy for diabetes and kidney disease or if you've had a kidney transplant within the last 36 months. You may be eligible for at least three hours of medical nutrition therapy services in the first year of referral and two hours each additional year. Additional coverage may be available in the same year with a second referral when more medical nutrition therapy is medically necessary.

Medicare Advantage (Medicare Part C) plans may also offer additional benefits, including coverage beyond the conditions covered by traditional Medicare. If you have private insurance (such as through your employer), check with your insurance plan for specific medical nutrition therapy coverage details. Your plan may cover nutrition counseling for a wide variety of chronic conditions and health concerns, such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

At your first appointment with a registered dietitian nutritionist, you will work together to set nutrition goals to improve your health.

Medical nutrition therapy provided by an RDN includes a:

  • Review of your eating habits, physical activity and lifestyle.
  • Thorough assessment of your nutritional status.
  • Personalized nutrition treatment plan.

The initial visit with a registered dietitian nutritionist takes approximately one hour. After the first session, the RDN will schedule follow-up appointments to check on your progress and see if changes are needed in your nutrition goals and treatment plan.

Ask your doctor if a referral for medical nutrition therapy provided by a registered dietitian nutritionist is right for you. With a physician's referral, you can make an appointment to see the RDN at your local hospital outpatient department, physician clinic or at an RDN's practice near your home.

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