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Does Medicare Cover Online Counseling Services?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Medicare significantly lacked coverage for online counseling services. These services were previously only covered in federally designated rural areas that possessed a shortage of healthcare specialists. However, since March of 2020, Medicare has added coverage for a variety of online counseling services. It’s important to search online to see exactly what online counseling services are covered.

Now, mental health consultations via telehealth are covered by Medicare just like in-person appointments traditionally have been. Old age can unfortunately be accompanied by mental health struggles. If remote mental healthcare suits your needs best, Medicare will now cover the cost of these crucial services.

Advantages of Online Therapy

Online counseling allows you to speak to your healthcare specialist remotely via phone calls, video chats, text messages, or even email. These services often fall under the umbrella category of telemedicine. Telemedicine has become an innovative way to provide care to the elderly population. Since the counseling provided is done remotely, those with compromised immune systems do not need to risk their health by going to in-person appointments with healthcare specialists.

Stay in the Comfort of Your Home

For those struggling with depression, anxiety, or a variety of other disorders, it can be a struggle to get out of the home. Unfortunately, such ailments can make individuals neglect their own care, as attending in-person appointments can be too stressful. With online counseling, it removes the obstacle of transportation, making therapy more accessible for those in need. Debilitating mental and physical health issues can now be treated from the comfort of your home with online counseling.

Online therapy and counseling operate very similarly to traditional appointments. When you video chat or voice call your specialist, they will generally be located in their office. As long as you are in a secure location, you will receive the same level of privacy you would expect from an in-person appointment.

Fast And Flexible Appointment Booking

Another benefit of telemedicine is that it streamlines health services. It allows traditional visits for therapy, routine follow-ups, and monitoring of chronic conditions to be done from your home. Telemedicine reduces the in-person volume within the healthcare system and allows it to operate more efficiently.

As these online appointments are less burdensome for both the patient and the care provider, they can be scheduled more frequently, even at nighttime and during weekend hours. Further, it is generally faster to speak to a specialist nowadays when scheduling an online counseling appointment rather than an in-person one.

Find Care Beyond Location

Online counseling has also become extremely beneficial to those living in remote areas. If you live in a rural or lower-resourced area, you can contact a specialist almost anywhere in the country. This is especially useful for treating disorders that are uncommon, as you can receive advice from individuals specialized in that specific area of medicine who aren’t necessarily located near you.

What does Medicare Cover

Medicare now treats telehealth appointments the same as they would for in-person office visits, psychotherapy, and consultations. While this is great, it should be known that these changes put into effect in 2020 may not be permanent as the world goes back to normal.

Coverage for mental health counseling falls under Medicare Part B. Though it does come with some restrictions. This coverage only applies to those who are diagnosed with a mental disorder listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). The DSM includes just about every legitimate mental disorder you can imagine, so if you have been diagnosed there shouldn’t be an issue.

Medicare covers a variety of outpatient mental health services, many of which can now be provided online. You can receive coverage for services like individual counseling, diagnostic testing, psychiatric evaluation, substance use treatment, and many others. However, like most medical insurance plans, there will be some costs attached.

For all services besides screenings, patients must pay the Medicare Part B deductible. For 2022, the deductible is projected to be $217. You will also be expected to pay the 20% coinsurance payments for most telehealth services.

While these costs may deter some, mental health issues are of utmost importance. You should also keep in mind that certain services are free of charge for Medicare enrollees.

Make sure to take advantage of the one-time “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit. This consultation will review possible risk factors for both physical and mental health. You can also discuss mental health issues with your provider during your yearly “Wellness” visit. Attending these “Wellness” visits every year is important so your primary physician can document your mental health and track its improvement or decline.

Medicare also offers yearly free depression screenings from your primary care physician. If budgeting is one of your primary concerns, take a close look at the Medicare 2022 handbook to ensure you make use of all free services offered.

How Do You Know if They Take Medicare?

Since March of 2020, Medicare covers online therapy for all Medicare members. The tricky part can be finding a telehealth provider that accepts Medicare. Online telehealth platforms usually state on their website whether they accept Medicare, or list all the various insurance providers they accept. If not, you should speak to one of their agents.

For a private therapist or practice, you should be able to contact the office directly in order to get an answer on whether they provide remote consultations and accept Medicare. Once you have found the ideal private care provider, you can ensure they accept Medicare through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). HRSA has a website that allows you to type in the address of your preferred telehealth specialist and it will verify whether or not they accept Medicare.

If you want to utilize online medical service platforms that specialize in telehealth, there are a variety of them that accept Medicare. One of the most popular providers is Doctor On Demand. Even better, Doctor On Demand is currently waiving co-pays for Medicare Part B enrollees during the ongoing public health emergency.

Another telehealth provider, Amwell, accepts Medicare. However, they only take Medicare Advantage, so if you are only enrolled in Original Medicare, it may be best to go with Doctor On Demand. These are just a couple of the many telehealth providers that accept Medicare.

Find Online Counseling Services

If you are an elderly individual with a compromised immune system, suffer from anxiety, or are home bound, telemedicine is an amazing innovation that can supply you with the care you need. To learn more, search online for counseling services covered by Medicare and take a step in the right mental health direction.

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