Older adults should have access to affordable mental health services and support including appropriate medications.
Congress and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services must ensure coverage, availability, and equitable access to mental health services and medications.
Why equitable access is necessary
Access to appropriate mental health treatment is critical for older adults’ health and well-being. Unfortunately, their ability to secure mental health services is often impeded or blocked entirely by out-of-pocket costs and lack of access to appropriate healthcare professionals.
Medicare does not cover key mental health services such as psychiatric rehabilitation, peer support services, or assertive community treatment–specialized care delivered by an integrated care team.
The burden of living with one or more chronic diseases can impact patients’ physical and emotional well-being. One study showed that older adults with chronic health conditions are 62 percent more likely to experience depressive symptoms than seniors without these conditions.
Medicare Part D plans are required to cover six “protected” drug classes, and these include antidepressants and antipsychotics, drugs that are often used to treat severe mental illness. It is imperative that Congress continue requiring Part D drug plans to cover these drugs, so out-of- pocket costs do not serve as a barrier to treatment. Additionally, Medicare should be expanded to ensure access to needed mental health services.