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Medicare may cover psychotherapy

The following item ran in “Kokua Line” on Jan. 17

Question: My mother is a widow. She’s pretty isolated, with no social life to speak of except for visits from me (I have no siblings).

She doesn’t belong to a church and has never been a “joiner.”

I think she is depressed, although there are some activities she enjoys, like walking.

I think she would benefit from some sort of group therapy, where she is with other people. But every time I bring it up she says “Medicare won’t cover that.”

Is that true?

Answer: A: Not necessarily. Original Medicare (which consists of Part A and Part B) doesn’t pay for support groups that bring people together to socialize, but it does cover group psychotherapy, according to “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” a booklet published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the U.S. health insurance for people over 65.

The latter may be an option for your mother if she is diagnosed with depression or some other illness for which group psychotherapy is beneficial.

You can read the full booklet at

You mentioned that your mom is not inclined to join clubs, but that she does enjoy walking.

Exercise can be therapeutic — physically and mentally! Perhaps you could walk with her, or encourage her to invite a neighbor or a friend to walk too. Such outings may lead her to eventually consider joining an organized activity for senior citizens, of which there are many.

Write to Kokua Line at Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu 96813; call 529-4773; or email

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