Depression Treatment Options

Tamera Jackson by Tamera Jackson | Licensed since 2007
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This article was updated on: 08/26/2017

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Clinical depression, also called major depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes a variety of physical and emotional problems. People who suffer from depression don’t just feel sad or have “the blues,” and they can’t just “snap out of it.” Depression requires medical treatment, often including long-term counseling and/or medication, and sometimes even hospitalization. The good news is that most people recover and go on to live productive, fulfilling lives.

What treatment for depression is available?

Depression treatment takes a variety of forms, depending on the cause and severity of the problem. The most common types of treatment for depression include:

  • Medications (antidepressants). There are several classes of antidepressant medications that are effective in treatment for depression. Your doctor may prescribe trials with several different types before finding the one that works best for you. It’s important to take your medication exactly as prescribed and not stop taking it abruptly.
  • Counseling and psychotherapy. Counseling or psychotherapy may take place in individual or group settings. You can get psychotherapy treatment on an outpatient basis or as an inpatient in a hospital setting. Psychotherapy may help you identify issues that contribute to your depression, find better ways to cope with negative feelings, and gain control over your symptoms.
  • Hospitalization. In some cases, your depression may be so severe that the best course of action is inpatient care in a hospital, such as a psychiatric hospital or general hospital. This type of intensive treatment can help avoid a crisis and keep you safe until your condition improves. Hospitalization can be either round-the-clock (on an inpatient basis) or partial (on an outpatient basis), in which you are able to continue to work or go to school while you get intensive psychiatric care in a safe environment.

Does Medicare cover treatment for depression?

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) covers a preventive screening for depression under Part B once per year in a primary care setting where you can get follow-up treatment or a referral for additional care if needed. You pay nothing if you have Part B and your health-care provider accepts Medicare assignment.

If your treatment for depression requires an inpatient stay in a general hospital or psychiatric hospital, Medicare Part A covers your mental health services. Your costs may include the Part A deductible for each benefit period, as well as copayments and/or coinsurance amounts for these services (which will vary depending on the length of you hospital stay). Certain costs, such as private duty nursing or personal items, are not covered.

Medicare Part B covers outpatient mental health services, including treatment for depression. This may include:

  • Counseling and treatment on an outpatient basis from state-licensed mental health providers
  • Diagnostic tests and psychiatric evaluations
  • Psychotherapy (both in an individual and group setting)
  • Family counseling (when the main purpose is to help you with your mental health treatment)
  • Medication management if needed

In general, you pay 20% of the Medicare-approved amount, plus any applicable Part B deductibles. If your outpatient care takes place in a hospital, you may also pay applicable hospital copayments.

Original Medicare offers limited coverage for medications your doctor may prescribe. You may be covered for prescription drugs that you get as part of your inpatient treatment, as well as certain outpatient medications that you normally can’t give yourself (such as injections). However, you’ll need to enroll in Medicare Part D for help with all other medication costs.

If you want help paying for your antidepressant medications, you can get coverage through a Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plan. These plans can be purchased on a stand-alone basis to work alongside your Original Medicare coverage. Alternatively, you can also enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan with coverage for prescription drugs, also known as a Medicare Advantage Prescription Drug plan.

Coverage depends on your plan’s formulary, or list of covered medications, and you may have copayments, coinsurance, and/or deductibles with your coverage. Keep in mind that formularies may change at any time, but your Medicare plan will notify you if necessary. Medicare Part D coverage is offered through private insurance companies contracted with Medicare to provide these benefits.

Does Medicare cover depression treatment centers?

In some situations, your physician may recommend care in a depression treatment center if you need more intensive treatment for depression. Whether or not you’re covered may depend on the type of depression treatment center and whether the facility provides services in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Part A covers inpatient mental health coverage that you get in a general hospital or psychiatric hospital (a facility dedicated to treating only people with mental health conditions).

Some services you get in a depression treatment centers may fall under “partial hospitalization,” which offers a more structured setting for outpatient depression treatment, while providing an alternative to inpatient mental health care. Your doctor may recommend partial hospitalization when you need more treatment than you can get in a typical outpatient setting (such as a doctor’s office), but want to avoid inpatient care if possible.

Medicare Part B may cover partial hospitalization in some cases. This may include partial hospitalization services you get in either a hospital outpatient setting or a community mental health center, such a depression treatment center.

In order for partial hospitalization services to be covered by Medicare:

  • You must have Part B.
  • Your doctor must verify that you would otherwise need inpatient treatment.
  • The doctor and program must accept Medicare assignment.

Medicare doesn’t cover all costs related to partial hospitalization. You’re not covered for meals, transportation to and from the mental health facility, services that aren’t part of your treatment for depression, or support groups with the purpose of socializing. If you are interested in getting care through a depression treatment center, check with the facility beforehand to make sure Medicare covers it.

Do you have more questions about Medicare and treatment for depression? To get information via email, or to schedule a telephone consultation, use one of the links below. See plans in your area you may qualify for by clicking the Compare Plans button. I’m available to help you find answers; learn more about me by clicking the “View profile” button below. For immediate assistance, please call me or one of our licensed insurance agents at 1-844-847-2660 (TTY users can call 711), Monday through Friday, 8AM to 8PM ET.

For more information on depression, see:

National Institutes of Health: National Institute of Mental Health, “Depression Definition,” last updated May 2016, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml

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