Medicare Expands Options for Mental Health Care

For decades, Medicare has covered only mental health services provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses. But with rising demand and many people willing to pay privately for care, 45 percent of psychiatrists and 54 percent of psychologists don’t participate in Medicare, the federal insurance system for some 65 million older or disabled Americans. Citing low payments and bureaucratic hassles, more than 124,000 behavioral health practitioners have opted out of Medicare — the most of any medical specialty. As a result, older adults anxious about worsening health or depressed by the loss of family and friends have substantial difficulty finding professional help.

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