May is National Mental Health Awareness Month

 By Lidia G. Rincon, Esq.

Depression is not a normal part of aging.  Depression is a medical condition that manifests itself differently in younger and older adults.  Although treatable, depression often goes undiagnosed, especially among older adults.    

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression is more common in individuals who suffer from at least one chronic health condition or whose function becomes limited.   Unfortunately, because of the belief that depression is a reaction to illness or a normal part of aging, older adults do not seek medical attention to deal with the condition.   In addition to not understanding that depression is treatable, older adults might not know that outpatient mental health care services may be covered by Original Medicare. 

Although it is okay to feel sad at times, a feeling of sadness that lasts weeks may be a symptom of depression.  In addition to experiencing extended periods of sadness, experiencing other things like poor sleep or quick weight gain or weight loss may also be symptoms that warrant a visit to the doctor. According to the publication “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits” issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), Medicare Part B covers one depression screening per year (subject to deductible or coinsurance, if applicable) when performed in a primary care doctor’s office or primary care clinic that can provide follow-up treatment and referrals.  A yearly depression screening should be absolutely free if your doctor or health care provider accepts assignment[1] from Medicare.  Also, according to CMS, other health professionals like clinical social workers must always accept assignment. 

If you or a friend need medical treatment for depression or at least need to see a medical provider for a diagnosis but have delayed seeking treatment because of lack of private insurance, now you know that Medicare Part B has you covered.  For more information about depression screenings visit or talk to your doctor. 

Visit to download a free copy of “Medicare & Your Mental Health Benefits”

For non-emergency crisis intervention, the Nevada Crisis Line is available 24/7 – (775) 784-8090.

[1] An assignment is an agreement by your doctor, provider, or other supplier to be paid directly by Medicare, to accept the payment amount Medicare approves for the service, and not to bill you for any more than the Medicare deductible and coinsurance. 

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