Local seniors concerned after UnitedHealthcare cuts SilverSneakers program in 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A well-known fitness program for seniors is about to change.

UnitedHealthcare's SilverSneakers fitness program will no longer be available after the new year. Instead, the health care insurance company is starting a new fitness program for seniors in 2019, and the new program will only be available to certain Medicare recipients.

The SilverSneakers program provides seniors with a membership at thousands of gyms across the country and access to group classes to help them stay active and healthy.

"Right now I do not have to pay. But if I have to pay, it is going to make a difference in my budget, so I'm not happy about that," said Sheila Elmore, who takes classes at Palestine Senior Citizens Activity Center.

Lori Smith, the executive director of Palestine Senior Citizens Activity Center, said nearly 1 in 7 people who attend the center are part of this program.

"I was really surprised because seniors are already on a fixed income, so it is going to hit them pretty hard," Smith said.

FOX4 checked with fitness centers around the metro. The Kansas City YMCA said more than 3,400 people use the SilverSneakers program every month. KC Parks and Rec said 120 people use the membership every week through five different classes.

Smith said they fought to bring the program to Palestine Senior Citizens Activity Center two years ago. She said currently 150 people at the center are part of this fitness program for seniors.

"It was important for them to have it here because this is where they have lunch, take different classes and meet to have socialization skills going," Smith said.

But as of Jan. 1, UnitedHealthcare plans to drop the program and offer a new program called Renew Active, which the insurance carrier says is similar to SilverSneakers.

A spokesperson for UnitedHealthcare said anyone with Medicare Advantage will be eligible for Renew Active at no additional cost.

It's important to check with UnitedHealthcare and your provider to see if you qualify for any added benefits through the Renew Active program.