Medicare is set to expand its coverage of mental health care services to include marriage and family therapists as well as mental health counselors beginning in January 2024.
The move, which was announced in July, is a big change for Medicare that has for decades limited mental health care coverage to services provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses, according to a recent report in The Washington Post.
The change means that now more than 400,000 marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors, which make up more than 40% of the licensed mental health workforce, will provide services and be paid directly, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) website. This expansion is especially critical in rural areas where access to care is currently limited, CMS said.
Medicare is also expanding intensive outpatient care by up to 19 hours per week to improve support for severe mental illness, and is broadening mobile crisis services that can treat people at home or on the streets, the Washington Post report noted.
“It is abundantly clear that our nation must improve access to effective mental health and substance use disorder — collectively called 'behavioral health' — treatment and care,” CMS Deputy Administrator Meena Seshamani and CMS Chief Transformation Officer Douglas Jacobs, said in a CMS blog post. “For older Americans and individuals with disabilities enrolled in Medicare, many individuals have felt the effects of worsening depression and anxiety or have struggled with the use of substances like opioids or alcohol.”
Medicare's new handbook
Medicare also lays out the mental health update along with a number of others in its recently issued Medicare & You 2024 handbook. These include:
- Savings on prescription drugs: If you have Medicare drug coverage (Part D) and your drug costs are high enough to reach the catastrophic coverage phase, you don’t have to pay a copayment or coinsurance.
- Lower cost for insulin and vaccines: Your Medicare drug plan cannot charge you more than $35 for a one-month supply of each insulin product Part D covers.
- Changes to telehealth coverage: You can get telehealth services at any location in the U.S., including your home, until the end of 2024.
- Managing and treating chronic pain: Medicare now covers monthly services to treat chronic pain if you’ve been living with it for more than three months.
- More times to sign up: If you recently lost or will soon lose Medicaid, you may be able to sign up for Medicare or change your current Medicare coverage.
- COVID-19 care: Medicare will continue to cover the COVID-19 vaccine as well as several tests and treatments.
Open enrollment ends December 7
Also, have a look at how to avoid scammers looking to take advantage of beneficiaries.
Joey Solitro is a freelance financial journalist at Kiplinger with more than a decade of experience. A longtime equity analyst, Joey has covered a range of industries for media outlets including The Motley Fool, Seeking Alpha, Market Realist, and TipRanks. Joey holds a bachelor's degree in business administration.
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