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Medicare covers depression screenings

Written by Diane Archer

Depression can be crippling, disrupting people’s daily lives and normal functioning. But it is generally treatable if diagnosed. Depression is a common condition for older adults, too often undiagnosed and unreported. To help ensure older adults are correctly diagnosed and treated, Medicare covers depression screenings. (Click here for a list of preventive care screenings Medicare covers.)

Keep in mind that big life changes such as the passing of a loved one, retirement, or a serious illness will naturally cause stress, anxiety and sadness. These feelings generally will pass with time and do not mean you are depressed. But, they can also become all-consuming.

Your doctor should determine your risk factors for depression if you go for a Welcome to Medicare visit or a Medicare Wellness visit. However, your doctor need not do a depression screening. If you’d like one, you should ask  for it.

For Medicare to cover depression screenings, a doctor must conduct the screening in a primary care setting. Medicare will not cover a depression screening conducted in an emergency room, inpatient hospital setting, or skilled nursing facility.

The depression screening includes a questionnaire that you must complete on your own or with help from your doctor. Your responses will indicate whether you suffer from depression or are at risk. If you have symptoms of depression, your may receive a more extensive exam.

Whether you have traditional Medicare and see a doctor who takes assignment or a Medicare Advantage plan and see an in-network doctor, Medicare covers the full cost of your annual screening–no deductible, coinsurance or copays.

If you are diagnosed as suffering from depression, Medicare will cover your treatment from a mental health professional. But, you will be responsible for meeting any deductible you have and any coinsurance or copays.  In eight out of ten cases, depression can be treated.

Click here for a summary of the different preventive care services Medicare covers, and here’s more detailed information on Medicare coverage of weight-loss counseling, smoking cessation and nutrition counseling. For more information on depression screenings, visit Medicare Interactive.

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