Despite more seniors increasingly willing to seek mental health care, most do not know with certainty that Medicare provides benefits, a new survey (PDF) found.
The survey, conducted by eHealth, a private health insurance marketplace, reached more than 3,800 eHealth Medicare customers aged 65 and older in February 2022.
More than a third of respondents reported an increased sense of loneliness or isolation related to the pandemic. Nearly half reported being “very willing” to seek mental health care, compared to just over a third before the pandemic. (Overall, 53% have received some mental health services in the past.)
Yet more than 6 in 10 did not know for certain that Medicare provides mental health care benefits. White, Republican seniors were the least likely to be informed on benefits. Nearly a third cited cost as the top reason they may avoid seeking care, followed by not understanding benefits and not knowing where to turn for help. Only 4% cited social stigma as the top reason they may avoid mental health care.
While most (66%) said they are just as willing to discuss mental health care as any other form of medical care with their physician, more than half (51%) have never talked about it with their doctor. Those ages 65 to 70 were most likely to have had such a conversation, while those in their 80s were the least likely.
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said mental health benefits are important to them when choosing a health plan; 38% said mental health benefits are “very important” when choosing a plan.
About a quarter of seniors surveyed reported experiencing anxiety, and about one-fifth each reported depression and loneliness. More than a third each said their feelings may be related to financial stress, politics and current events or worry about the pandemic.