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Does Medicare Cover Suicide Prevention?

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Suicide kills more than 41,000 Americans each year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).  Although suicide can involve many complex mental health and environmental issues, suicide prevention measures can sometimes help people suffering with suicidal thoughts. Medicare may cover certain screenings that can help with suicide prevention, as well as counseling, partial hospitalization, and medication management.

Suicide prevention: why is it important?

The good news is that many people who consider suicide do not actually end their own lives. NAMI estimates that only about one in ten people who attempt suicide succeed, which might mean that they “want their pain to end, not their life.”

So, the more people understand about suicide, the greater chance they might have at suicide prevention. We’ll also explore Medicare coverage of suicide prevention.

Suicide prevention and Medicare

Medicare Part B may cover a depression screening once a year. It has to be in a primary care setting, like a doctor’s office. The provider needs to be able to give follow-up treatments or referrals.

If you get your Medicare Part B (and Part A) benefits through a Medicare Advantage plan, the plan also typically covers a depression screening per year.

However, suicide isn’t necessarily caused by depression.

Suicide prevention: understanding why suicide happens

Many people are startled and confused that a loved one would commit suicide. There can be many reasons why someone would do this, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Many people assume that depression is the major cause of suicide – but it’s just one of many possibilities, according to the CDC. Besides depression, there can be many different possible reasons for suicide, such as:

  • Poor physical health
  • Problems in relationships
  • Money problems
  • Substance abuse

Even if Medicare covers some mental health care to help with suicide prevention, it may be valuable to learn more about suicide and who’s at risk.

Suicide prevention: risk factors

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people may be at risk for suicide if they:

  • Have ever tried suicide
  • Have a history of mental illness, such as depression
  • Have a family history of suicide
  • Use alcohol or drugs heavily
  • Feel isolated

Suicide has many risk factors, the CDC reports; these are just a few of them.

Suicide prevention: signs and symptoms

Although it can be hard to tell when someone’s thinking about suicide, there are some warning signs that some people show, such as:

  • Behavior and mood changes, like becoming more aggressive
  • Suddenly becoming calm after a period of despair
  • A sense of unbearable pain or being trapped
  • Giving away possessions
  • Talking about wanting to die

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Mental health treatment under Medicare

Medicare’s coverage of mental health care might be important when it comes to suicide prevention.

Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) may cover mental health outpatient and hospitalization for those at risk of suicide. Under Medicare Part B, you may have access to services beyond the depression screening mentioned above. Part B may also cover:

  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Tests to diagnose your situation
  • Group and individual psychotherapy (by certain providers who are licensed in your state to deliver these services)
  • Certain preventive care services. For example, you get a “Welcome to Medicare” appointment when you’re new to Medicare, and an annual wellness visit from then on.
  • Certain medications, in some situations. These would generally be the type of medications you wouldn’t take at home, such as an injection.
  • Medication management

Medicare Part B may also cover outpatient services that might relate to suicide prevention, such as:

  • Alcohol abuse screening and treatment
  • Partial hospitalization. This is structured treatment that’s more intensive than you’d typically get in a doctor’s office, but doesn’t involve staying overnight in a hospital.

Please note that there are certain eligibility rules, and out-of-pocket costs, for these services. A deductible amount and daily coinsurance may apply. Services must be given by certain Medicare-approved providers. Medicare generally doesn’t cover transportation to and from your treatments.

Medicare Part A may cover inpatient care at a general hospital or a psychiatric hospital. A deductible amount generally applies. For the first 60 days, there’s no coinsurance amount to pay. After 60 days as an inpatient, you typically pay a daily coinsurance amount. After 90 days, you may have to pay a higher coinsurance amount, or in some cases, all costs.

You might want to consider buying a Medicare Supplement insurance plan to help with the out-of-pocket costs of Medicare Part A and Part B. Read about Medicare Supplement insurance.

Suicide Prevention medications

If your doctor prescribes an antidepressant, antipsychotic, anti-anxiety medication or other medication to help you cope with suicidal thoughts, you may not be covered by basic Medicare (Part A and Part B). For coverage of most prescription drugs you take at home, you may want Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. You can get Medicare Part D rolled into a Medicare Advantage plan, or as a stand-alone plan that goes alongside Original Medicare Part A and Part B.

If you or a loved one is on Medicare and needs or wants mental health services, you might want to talk with your doctor’s office about what services you need. You can reach out to an eHealth licensed insurance agent for details about what Medicare may cover.

Are you thinking about suicide, or worried that someone you care about? You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. TTY users can call 1-800-799-4889.

Would you like to take a look at Medicare Supplement insurance plans in your area, or other insurance such as Medicare prescription drug plans? Enter your zip code in the box on this page to display plans in your area. And remember, eHealth’s licensed insurance agents can answer your Medicare coverage questions.

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