Medicare Hopes to Increase Coverage for Depression
Depression is a very real issue for seniors (and other Americans) all over the country. However, in many seniors the disease has gone undetected, because even with Medicare, preventative measures were not covered for mental health needs. Seniors with depression, especially white, older males, have a much higher chance of being diagnosed, because patients typically present physical, tangible complaints rather than symptoms of their mood.
Already, some Medicare beneficiaries are being treated for depression, although those who are, encounter very high out-of-pocket expenses. Those with Medicare Supplemental Plans (or Medigap Insurance) were able to handle more of the costs, but those without supplemental insurance often went without treatment.
Medicare hopes to rectify that situation with new policies that focus on early detection and preventative measures as opposed to just treatment after the disease has already taken hold:
“Medicare always has covered treatment of mental illness. But starting Jan. 1, 2012, the program also will cover preventive screenings for depression and, in a separate policy proposal, alcohol misuse.” (from American Medical News)
It’s impossible to ignore the growing number of seniors dealing with depression. It’s also foolish to think that all those who are dealing with depression are receiving the proper treatment:
“‘Among persons older than 65 years, one in six suffers from depression,’ and the condition is higher in those with co-morbidities including cancer, arthritis, stroke, chronic lung disease and cardiovascular disease, and when stressful events are more frequent.” (from Health Leaders Media)
Another study has linked insomnia to depression, and while it is usually of symptom of depression, doctors have found that it can also be a risk factor for depression onset and reoccurring depression.
Also, depression amongst seniors tend to last longer than the general population suffering from depression. Depression has also been known to double the risk of cardiac diseases in seniors, and has been linked to the increased percentage of deaths from illness. Often times depression can reduce the ambition, or even ability to rehabilitate from a sickness or injury.
The hope is that adding Medicare coverage for screenings and early-detection practices, the number of undiagnosed seniors will decrease and that those suffering from depression will receive the help they need.
Medicare Coverage Can Only Get Better with Your Help
If you have questions about Medicare or Medicare supplement insurance coverage for mental health issues, you should be able to speak with a Medigap provider or other professional in the field who can lay out exactly what the coverage is and what the costs are.
Healthcare continues to be a major topic of discussion on Capitol Hill, across the 24-hour news channels, and in homes all over the country. Unfortunately, a lot of these conversations and debates turn into political attacks, and some of the basic concerns get lost in the mix. Concerns like, “Does Medicare provide the coverage I need right now, or do I need to look into Medigap coverage?”
As the focus of the Medicare debate remains, for the most part, in the future tense, we try our best to focus on the here and now (at least from time to time). The fact is that as of right now, Medicare coverage doesn’t provide the full range of care that some seniors need. In fact, according to a recent report “about 1 in 6 Medicare beneficiaries purchased [Medigap policies] in 2008. (from Philly Burbs and Partnership to Protect Medigap)
Not everyone (seniors or otherwise) has the same healthcare needs or is in the same economic situation. However, everyone has the right to get all of the information on all of the options out there. As talks about the future of Medicare heat up as we approach the next Presidential election, don’t lose sight of the present state of Medicare. Does it offer you all of the coverage you need? What options could Medigap coverage provide? Does Medigap coverage make financial sense for my specific situation? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself and an expert in the field, even if the politicians and pundits aren’t asking them.