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Medicare Broadens Coverage for Mental Health Services

As the 2024 Medicare & You booklet states, Medicare covers mental health care services for conditions such as anxiety and depression. Visits for such services are often called “counseling” or “psychotherapy” and can be done individually, in group or family settings, or in crisis situations. Services may be provided in outpatient settings like a doctor’s office and can include “visits with a psychiatrist or other doctor, clinical psychologist, clinical nurse specialist, clinical social worker, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.” The glitch: Research has shown that approximately half or more of psychiatrists and psychologists refuse to accept Medicare due to its low payments or bureaucratic hassles. But starting in 2024, an estimated 400,000 professionals have been added to the ranks of mental health care providers that Medicare recipients can see for services. That’s because Medicare now covers services provided by marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors. KFF Health News estimates these two categories of professionals constitute 40% of the licensed mental health workforce. New coverage includes “partial hospitalization” services, defined as “a structured day program that offers outpatient psychiatric services as an alternative to inpatient psychiatric care.” Also starting in 2024, Medicare will cover intensive outpatient services provided by hospitals, community mental health centers, and Rural Health Clinics. Note that Medicare Part A already covers mental health services received as a hospital inpatient. See https://www.medicare.gov/coverage/mental-health-care-partial-hospitalization for more details.

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