Medicare’s Planned Boost in Mental Health Support Starts Next Month


The imminent arrival of January 1 heralds a notable transformation in the accessibility of mental health care for Medicare beneficiaries.

A groundbreaking change will see licensed marriage and family therapists included in Medicare insurance coverage, a move expected to alleviate the prolonged waiting periods faced by individuals seeking therapy.

Joy Alafia, the Executive Director of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, representing a substantial cohort of 36,000 counselors, emphasized the transformative impact of this policy shift. 

Alafia highlighted the pressing need for such provisions, citing statistics revealing that only 15% of those with Medicare insurance currently receive treatment from behavioral health specialists, despite 30% living with mental illness.

The extended coverage will facilitate assistance for various mental health challenges, from anxiety and depression to addiction, stress, and trauma. This expansion aims to curtail the distressing wait times that have discouraged many individuals from seeking vital therapeutic support.

Bindu Khurana-Brown, an associate director at Momentum for Health, underlined the significance of additional providers, particularly concerning immediate mental health needs. 

Improving Mental Health Coverage in Medicare

The imminent arrival of January 1 heralds a notable transformation in the accessibility of mental health care for Medicare beneficiaries.

The shortage of Medicare-accepted therapists previously hindered access to qualified professionals, dissuading those seeking help from pursuing treatment.

In California, licensed marriage and family therapists form a substantial portion, constituting 40% of the state’s behavioral health workforce, which also encompasses social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists. 

With the older adult population projected to reach a quarter of the state’s demographics within the next seven years, the urgency to address mental health needs for this segment becomes increasingly critical.

This move signifies a crucial step towards bridging the treatment gap in mental healthcare for Medicare recipients. 

By expanding coverage to include marriage and family therapists, it’s anticipated that more individuals grappling with mental health issues, especially seniors, will gain access to the professional care they urgently require. 

Starting next year, those seeking therapy through Medicare can explore these new options, aiming to shorten waiting times and enhance mental health support across communities.

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