Mental Health and Medicare: Know Your Options to Get the Care You Need
Authored by Teresa Greenhill
Medicare is an invaluable benefit for seniors or those with disabilities, but navigating the process of enrolling and understanding benefits isn’t always easy. Even if you start to get the hang of Medicare basics, coverage can still be confusing. This is especially true when it comes to mental health coverage. While individual screenings are covered and other care is not, it's essential for anyone accessing Medicare to know what's available to them so they can get the mental health care treatment — or any other treatment — they need to live life to the fullest.
Understanding Your Options
Anyone who has Medicare is eligible for some mental health screenings and treatment, but the type of care and the cost varies depending on your plan. If you have Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and B), you can get a free depression screening each year through your primary care physician. In addition to the screening, you can access counseling services through approved providers. You are responsible for paying 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for these services, and you may also have a copayment or coinsurance for some services.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan like those offered by Aetna, your mental health coverage will vary depending on your specific plan, but many covers as much as Original Medicare, if not more than. Most programs provide coverage for counseling and therapy from a variety of providers, including psychiatrists, social workers, and clinical psychologists. The most important thing is to review your plan to make sure you find the right coverage for the services you need when it’s time to enroll annually.
Recognizing the Care You Need
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to recognize the warning signs of depression. If you don’t feel like yourself anymore, or maybe you feel lethargic or just less interested in life, these are only a few of many common signs of depression. Even if you aren’t sure if this sounds like you, talking to your doctor and getting access to free depression screening is an essential first step. It’s also crucial to speak with your primary care doctor so they can help distinguish depression from other medical concerns.
Depression is more common in seniors than you may think. Some older adults have a hard time coping with health changes and a decreased ability to do daily activities. Or you may be grieving the loss of friends who have passed on or the loss of a spouse. Disability is another common risk factor for depression in seniors. A lack of mobility and increased dependence on others can be severe for seniors who are used to doing things for themselves or without mobility aids.
The first thing you should know about depression is that, while these risk factors are common for seniors, depression isn’t just a normal part of aging that you have to deal with. The second important thing to realize is that depression can be treated, so there’s no reason not to look into mental health services. Good Therapy explains how mental health treatment can give you the tools to help you manage your emotions and find enjoyment and meaning in life.
Finding a Provider
Whichever type of Medicare coverage you have, the first thing you want to do is find a provider who accepts your insurance and who is also the right fit for you. One way to search for a provider in your area who accepts original Medicare is through Psychology Today.
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, the main thing you want to look for is whether a provider partner's with the insurance company your policy is provided through. One benefit to having Medicare Advantage is that it may give you more providers to choose from who accept your insurance.
Just as you want to have a good relationship with your other medical providers, when you work with a mental health professional, you want to have a connection that makes you feel comfortable and understood. This is why it is so important to find the right provider, not just the first one who comes along. Depression is a severe illness, but it is also treatable. You owe it to yourself to seize that opportunity.
Photo credit: Pixabay