Does Medicare Cover Skin Cancer Screening and Treatment?

Updated on December 16, 2021

Dermatological services and skincare treatments are part of a person’s wellbeing and healthcare routine, but the costs can keep people in need of help away from specialists. Luckily, some dermatology services are covered by Medicare policies. However, not everything is covered and each type of policy has a different type of coverage.

From the start, you should know that Medicare doesn’t cover unnecessary medical services such as routine checks, enhancements, or cosmetic treatments (like the ones for sunspots and wrinkle removal). 

So, is dermatology covered by Medicare?

It depends. Overall, if you have to undergo dermatologic treatment because your health and wellbeing are affected by the problem, there’s a high chance Medicare will cover the expenses of dermatology at least partially. However, if it’s not an emergency, it’s recommended to talk with your dermatologist and check if your policy covers the services. 

How About Skin Cancer Screenings?

Skin cancer is a common form of cancer that’s usually influenced by exposure to UV rays (sun exposure or tanning salons) but it can have other causes as well. However, if it’s not caught on time, skin cancer can be fatal. 

That’s why dermatologists recommend regular screenings. This way, if something is not right, a dermatologist can identify the problem before it poses any health risk. In most cases, if skin cancer is caught early, the chances of full recovery are really good. 

However, skin cancer screenings are not covered by Medicare unless there is real cause for concern. This means that if you show no signs of skin cancer (lesions, weird-looking moles, or skin growths), the screening won’t be covered by your policy since this is designed to only cover necessary screenings. 

However, Medicare does cover visits with your primary care physician. So, if you find something that doesn’t look right on your body, ask your PCP about it. If there’s cause for concern, they will refer you to a dermatologist for extensive testing. In this case, Medicare Part B may cover the referral visit costs. 

Also, if the dermatologist or the PCP deems it necessary, Medicare Part B may also cover a skin biopsy.

Preventive Screenings

In an attempt to prevent patients from ignoring minor healthcare problems that may turn into something bigger, Medicare Part B does provide coverage for one full-body exam within the first 12 months of coverage. 

Also, many organizations offer free skin cancer screenings. So if your Medicare doesn’t cover the cost, you can still get your preventive checkup if you register in the American Academy of Dermatology’s Skin Cancer Screening program or the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Destination Healthy Skin program.

Skin Cancer Treatment

If you are diagnosed with skin cancer, then Medicare will cover the treatment costs. However, you will still be responsible for paying deductibles and coinsurance costs (in the case of Medicare Part B, the coinsurance cost is around 20%). 

Medicare may also cover the treatment of precancerous lesions, but you must check with your PCP in order to make sure your Medicare coverage plan is a good fit.

Dermatology Services Not Covered

As we already mentioned, Medicare doesn’t cover any of the dermatology services considered to be cosmetic or full-body preventive exams (which is a shame). 

But what exactly are these cosmetic services? 

Some of the most common examples that come to mind are:

  • Acne treatments
  • Wrinkles and signs of aging
  • Mole removals for cosmetic reasons
  • Hair growth promotion treatments

Overall, anything that doesn’t threaten your health is not considered a necessity under Medicare. However, the best practice is prevention, so make sure to get yourself checked with every occasion you get. Keep an eye on free programs and try to enroll as often as possible.

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