Depression Often Undiagnosed But New Medicare Benefit May Help Change That

Bette Davis was famously quoted for saying old age isn’t for sissies, but experts say according to contrary belief, the elderly do not experience depression as often as younger people do. Many of us assume that with multiplying health issues and losing loved ones elderly people sometimes become depressed. This can be a problem that is often undiagnosed in this age bracket. Last October a change occurred in coverage and Medicare began to cover depression screening that can be done annually. This is done in the primary care setting with no cost sharing for the patient’s beneficiaries, according to The Washington Post. Medicare’s rate works out to a little over $17 per person with them paying doctors to do a depression screening and this should increase the frequency of their screenings. Ken Duckworth, with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says that while doctors try to do everything right, it is difficult to prioritize how to handle the 21 minutes when you have a complex patient. When doctors are paid for doing the depression screening test they will structure the testing into their practice, he adds. Medicare currently covers 60 percent of mental health treatments like depression and the figure is expected to rise in 2014 to 80 percent. The screening test for depression is a simple and quick patient questionnaire regarding health. It asks a series of questions about how they have felt over the past two weeks, their sleep patterns, concentration and also appetite questions. The test will only take a few minutes and pinpoints the severity of depression at almost 90 percent. The elderly can be more vulnerable than others because of chronic conditions like heart conditions or diabetes and this can often complicate their diagnosis and treatment of depression along with their other problems.

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