(LibertySociety.com) – If sufficient providers enroll, Medicare’s biggest expansion of mental health services in a generation has the potential to be a vital lifeline for seniors in the United States.
Psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, and licensed clinical social workers have been the only healthcare professionals covered by Medicare for many years.
In 2022, for the first time since 1989, Medicare was able to compensate licensed mental health counselors and marital and family therapists.
Despite the growing number of patients who are prepared to pay out of pocket for medical treatment, the program is still not used by 45% of psychiatrists and 54% of psychologists. Out of all medical specialties, more than 124,000 mental health practitioners have chosen not to participate in Medicare, citing issues with low compensation and bureaucratic red tape as reasons.
Consequently, it’s quite difficult for seniors who are worried about their health deteriorating or who are sad due to the death of loved ones to receive expert treatment.
Some health practitioners downplay the pain of older persons due to ageism and stigmatization of mental illness, which further obstructs treatment. Fortunately, more behavioral health providers may soon be available to Medicare beneficiaries thanks to a slew of legislative and regulatory initiatives. More than 40% of licensed mental health professionals are marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors; their services will be available to Medicare beneficiaries beginning in January. This is particularly important in rural regions, where access to mental health professionals is limited. Because of the severe lack of mental health professionals in moderately populated areas, this growth is “essential” for the people living there.
Deputy director Clese Erikson of George Washington University’s Health Workforce Research Center wants seniors to be aware that the expansion will be particularly helpful for their overall wellness. The group is trying to get its members to sign up for Medicare and is making them aware of the risks of not doing so.
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