Depression Treatment for Seniors

Did you know that depression is widely prevalent among seniors? Learn about treatment options for depression, including treatments that are covered by Medicare.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that more than 6.5 million Americans age 65 and over are affected by depression.1

Depression treatment options can include therapy, medication, counseling and even hospitalization. Medicare covers some depression treatments for qualified beneficiaries, such as preventive screenings and psychotherapy.

This guide details different treatment options for seniors, including some that are covered by Medicare as well as some options that older adults can pursue for themselves.

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Does Medicare cover depression?

Medicare Part B (medical insurance) covers one depression screening in full per year. The screening must take place in a primary care setting such as a doctor’s office, and you will typically pay nothing as long as your doctor accepts Medicare assignment.

If depression is detected, a number of inpatient and outpatient treatment options are covered by Medicare. Your treatment plan will depend largely on what type of depression you have and its severity.

Depression treatment services that can be covered by Medicare include:  

  • Care received in a general or psychiatric hospital while admitted as an inpatient for mental health treatment.

  • A partial hospitalization program for beneficiaries who require some inpatient treatment

  • Individual or group psychotherapy

  • Family counseling

  • Psychiatric evaluation

  • Medication management

  • Testing to see if you’re receiving the correct services and that those services are working

  • Diagnostic tests

Medicare Part B will provide coverage for certain prescription drugs that are not typically “self-administered.” An injection is an example of a covered drug that is not self-administered.

In order to receive coverage for self-administered drugs such as oral pills, you may want to consider enrolling in a Medicare Part D prescription drug plan or Medicare Advantage plan that offers prescription drug coverage.

Medicare Part D plans provide coverage exclusively for prescription drugs, while Medicare Advantage plans can provide a variety of benefits not covered by Original Medicare (Medicare Part A and Part B).

Medicare Part D and certain Medicare Advantage plans can provide coverage for medications that are commonly prescribed to help treat depression.

Additional depression treatment options

There are some additional depression treatment options seniors can consider, though these options are not typically covered by Medicare.

  • Electroconvulsive therapy, or electroshock therapy, is typically used in cases of severe depression where the risk of suicide or harm to others is very high.

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is often used to treat major depression in people who have already tried antidepressants. An electromagnetic coil is placed over the scalp and creates a magnetic field that stimulates the nerves in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that controls mood.

  • Vagus nerve stimulation is a treatment used when most other options have failed. A device similar to a pacemaker is implanted into the chest with wires leading to the vagus nerve of the neck. The device sends regular electrical currents to the nerve, which is responsible for relaying information to the brain.

  • Exercise has been shown by research to fight depression and is a treatment option that comes free of cost and can even be made easier with the help of a Medicare Advantage plan that offers fitness club memberships.

    High-intensity exercise releases endorphins, which are the body’s positive chemicals responsible for what’s commonly called a “runner’s high.” Low-intensity exercise sustained over time releases neurotrophic proteins that promote growth in brain function and can make you generally feel better.

Physical health ailments can sometimes lead to depression, so exercise that improves the body physically can also help prevent related depression.

Learn more about how a Medicare Advantage plan could help cover the costs of depression treatment options like prescription drug coverage, therapy and physical fitness organizations.

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This article is for informational purposes only. It is not healthcare advice. Speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about your specific healthcare needs.


1 Mental Health America. Depression in Older Adults: More Facts. Retrieved from


About the author

Christian Worstell is a licensed insurance agent and a Senior Staff Writer for He is passionate about helping people navigate the complexities of Medicare and understand their coverage options.

His work has been featured in outlets such as Vox, MSN, and The Washington Post, and he is a frequent contributor to health care and finance blogs.

Christian is a graduate of Shippensburg University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He currently lives in Raleigh, NC.

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