Guest Blog: How to Use Medicare to Your Advantage When You’re Living with Depression
By Brad Krause
Everyone experiences the highs and lows of everyday life, when euphoric moments of joy can be suddenly eclipsed by darker moments of sadness or despair. Although these peaks and valleys can happen at any time, feeling down without relief may be a sign that something bigger is occurring. It could be a sign of depression. It’s important to know what those signs are in order to get the necessary care in a timely manner, especially for a disorder that is often under-treated in older adults.
What Symptoms to Look For
Diagnosing depression in older adults can be tricky, especially since it interferes with daily functioning. To complicate matters further, the telltale signs are often different in the seniors, which is problematic due to certain medications mimicking or causing depression symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include trouble sleeping, decreased mood and energy, appetite changes, feelings of hopelessness, persistent sadness, social withdrawal, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Medicare for Depression
If you or a senior loved one encounters symptoms associated with depression, you should speak to your doctor or physician immediately to find out what kind of mental health coverage is available. For older adults using Original Medicare, your outpatient mental health services are covered up to 80 percent of the approved amount under Part B. This means that as long as you see a non-medical doctor from a participating Medicare provider, like a psychiatrist or psychologist, then you will be responsible for covering the remaining 20 percent balance once you meet your deductible.
Some of the counseling services available through Medicare might include individual and group therapy, occupational therapy, activity therapies (such as art, dance, or music therapy), training and education, and family counseling to help with your treatment. In addition to therapeutic treatments, Medicare Part D can cover the cost of your prescription antidepressants. However, make sure to check that your provider is Medicare-certified; otherwise, you will have to pay out-of-pocket for your treatment.
Using Medicare Advantage for Mental Health Treatment
For those using Medicare Advantage, your plan will offer the same mental health coverage as Original Medicare, including counseling sessions. Since this plan is provided by private companies that enter a contract with Medicare, your plan might also include prescription drug coverage that isn’t available to Original Medicare users. There are additional benefits to enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan. The inclusion of vision, dental, and hearing coverage might make you want to considering switching.
Finding a Provider That’s Best for You
Choosing to seek a therapist or psychologist to treat your depression is a way to say “yes” to your well-being. Not only is it important to find a mental health provider you trust, but it’s also important that they operate within your healthcare network and Medicare’s network. A mental health provider in your network will be covered by your healthcare plan, making your out-of-pocket expenses more affordable.
Whether you have a PPO or an HMO, you’ll be able to get a proper referral through your primary physician or your insurance company’s provider directory. If you’re seeking mental health services for the first time, be sure to try out different providers until you land on the right one. You deserve to receive the best care for your preferences and comfort level, and you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no to any doctor or therapist that doesn’t suit your needs.
When it comes to treating depression, there is no one cure that works for everyone. The road to recovery may require a combination of specialists or prescription medications, but the first step in overcoming this treatable disease is seeking help. Although depression is sometimes attributed to getting older, it doesn’t have to be. Depression can be treated effectively by seeking proper care, but it starts with understanding the signs that you or your senior loved one might be experiencing.
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