Dear Savvy Senior: Does Medicare cover outpatient counseling services for its beneficiaries? Since the death of my sister last year, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety and would like to get some help. — Sad Senior
Dear Sad: I’m sorry for your loss. Yes, Medicare covers both outpatient and inpatient mental health services to help beneficiaries with depression, anxiety and many other needs. Here’s what you should know.
If you have original Medicare, your Part B coverage will pay 80% (after you’ve met your $198 Part B deductible) for a variety of counseling and mental health care services that are provided outside a hospital, like individual or group therapy, family counseling and more. They also cover services for treatment of beneficiaries who struggle with alcohol and drug abuse.
You, or your supplemental insurance, are responsible for the remaining 20% coinsurance.
Medicare also gives you the option of getting treatment through a variety of mental health professionals such as psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and clinical nurse specialists.
To get this coverage, you’ll need to choose a “participating provider” that accepts Medicare assignment, which means it accepts Medicare’s approved amount as full payment for a service.
If you choose a “nonparticipating provider” that accepts Medicare but does not agree to Medicare’s payment rate, you may have to pay more. And if you choose an “opt-out provider” that does not accept Medicare payments at all, you will be responsible for the entire cost.
To locate a mental health care professional in your area that accepts Medicare assignment, use Medicare’s online Physician Compare tool. Go to Medicare.gov/PhysicianCompare and type in your ZIP code, or city and state, then type in the type of profession you want to locate, like “psychiatry” or “clinical psychologist” in the search box. You can also get this information by calling Medicare at 800-633-4227.
If you need mental health services in either a general or psychiatric hospital, original Medicare Part A covers this, too (after you’ve met your $1,408 Part A deductible). Your doctor should determine which hospital setting you need. If you receive care in a psychiatric hospital, Medicare covers up to 190 days of inpatient care for your lifetime. And if you use your lifetime days but need additional care, Medicare might cover additional inpatient care at a general hospital.
In addition to the outpatient and inpatient mental health services, Medicare also covers yearly depression screenings that must be done in a primary care doctor’s office or clinic. Annual depression screenings are covered 100%.
And if you have a Medicare prescription drug plan, most medications used to treat mental health conditions are covered, too.
If you happen to get your Medicare benefits through a private Medicare Advantage plan, it must provide the same coverage as original Medicare does, but it might impose different rules and will likely require you to see an in-network provider. You’ll need to contact your plan directly for details.
And for more information, call Medicare at 800-633-4227 and request a copy of publication No. 10184, “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits,” or you can read it online at medicare.gov.
Jim Miller is a contributor to NBC-TV’s “Today” program and author of “The Savvy Senior.” Send your questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070; or visit savvysenior.org.