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Lynn Cooper was going through an awful time. After losing her job in 2019, she became deeply depressed. Then the covid-19 pandemic hit, and her anxiety went through the roof. Then her cherished therapist — a marriage and family counselor — told Cooper she couldn’t see her once Cooper turned 65 and joined Medicare.

“I was stunned,” said Cooper, who lives in Pittsburgh and depends on counseling to maintain her psychological balance. “I’ve always had the best health insurance a person could have. Then I turned 65 and went on Medicare, and suddenly I had trouble getting mental health services.”

The issue: For decades, Medicare has covered only services provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychiatric nurses. But with rising demand and many people willing to pay privately for care, 45% of psychiatrists and 54% of psychologists don’t participate in the program. Citing low payments and bureaucratic hassles, more than 124,000 behavioral health practitioners have opted out of Medicare — the most of any medical specialty.

As a result, older adults anxious about worsening health or depressed by the loss of family and friends have substantial difficulty finding professional help. Barriers to care are made more acute by prejudices associated with mental illness and by ageism, which leads some health professionals to minimize older adults’ suffering.

Now, relief may be at hand as a series of legislative and regulatory changes expand Medicare’s pool of behavioral health providers. For the first time, beginning in January, Medicare will allow marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors to provide services. This cadre of more than 400,000 professionals makes up more than 40% of the licensed mental health workforce and is especially critical in rural areas.

Medicare is also adding up to 19 hours a week of intensive outpatient care as a benefit, improving navigation and peer-support services for those with severe mental illness, and expanding mobile crisis services that can treat people in their homes or on the streets.

“As we emerge from the COVID-19 public health emergency, it is abundantly clear that our nation must improve access to effective mental health and substance use disorder treatment and care,” Meena Seshamani, deputy administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a July statement.

This article discusses the positive development as Medicare expands its roster of available mental health professionals, signaling a crucial step towards increased accessibility and support for individuals seeking mental health care. The expansion includes the addition of licensed marriage and family therapists and licensed professional counselors, offering a more diverse range of mental health practitioners covered under Medicare. This shift is particularly significant as it addresses the growing demand for mental health services and promotes a more inclusive approach to mental well-being.

The article emphasizes how this expansion can contribute to reducing barriers to mental health care, making it more accessible for those in need. With a broader selection of professionals now covered by Medicare, individuals have greater flexibility in choosing the mental health support that aligns with their unique needs and preferences.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction or facing mental health challenges, RehabNear.Me is here to help. Call us at 855-339-1112, and our compassionate team will provide guidance and connect you with appropriate addiction treatment resources and mental health support tailored to your unique needs. Seeking help is a courageous step towards a brighter and healthier future. Reach out today.

 

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Fel Clinical Director of Content
Felisa Laboro has been working with addiction and substance abuse businesses since early 2014. She has authored and published over 1,000 articles in the space. As a result of her work, over 1,500 people have been able to find treatment. She is passionate about helping people break free from alcohol or drug addiction and living a healthy life.

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