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How your Medicare Advantage plan can help you take care of your mental well-being

Bonnie Vengrow By Bonnie Vengrow

You visit the dentist twice a year, you’re up to date on your eyeglass prescription and you never miss an annual physical. But there’s another aspect of your overall health. And it deserves the same level of attention: your mental well-being.

There can be a stigma or a reluctance to seek help for mental health issues. Yet when you take care of your mental health, you’re also giving your physical health a boost. The two are closely tied. Research has found that good mental health can strengthen your immune system. And it can lower your risk of serious health issues, such as heart attacks and strokes.

You may have picked up on this mind-body connection firsthand at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. That was when we were asked to physically distance from other people. Even now, do you feel especially down or lonely? You aren’t the only one. In June 2020, more than half of adults ages 50 to 80 reported feeling isolated from others — up more than double from 27 percent in 2018, according to the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

In fact, connecting with other people can improve your mental health. Other habits, such as staying positive, practicing mindfulness, getting enough sleep and eating healthy, can help too. It’s normal to occasionally feel lonely, down or just blah. But if you’re having trouble shaking off those feelings, or if they worsen, talk to a therapist. They can give you tools to deal with negative events, cope with daily stresses and help you maintain good mental health. Your primary care doctor can also provide support. They know your medical history and the medications you’re taking. And they can suggest lifestyle strategies and resources that can help you.

And there’s another source of assistance: your Aetna Medicare Advantage (MA) plan. It’s designed to care for your body, mind and spirit. Let’s take a closer look at how you can use your plan’s benefits to support your mental well-being.

 

Care in and out of the hospital

With an MA plan, you get mental health coverage. This coverage includes hospital stays, outpatient care, therapy sessions, certain medications and more. Services include:

  • A onetime “Welcome to Medicare” preventive visit, which includes a review of potential risk factors for depression
  • An annual wellness visit
  • Individual and group psychotherapy with doctors or certain other licensed professionals
  • Clinical social worker appointments
  • One depression screening per year
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Mental health services you receive as an inpatient in a hospital
  • Partial hospitalization in some cases

If your plan comes with prescription drug coverage, it may help pay for prescribed medications to treat a mental health condition. Check your plan’s formulary to find out what’s covered.

 

Telehealth: Help when and where you need it

Telehealth lets you connect with a licensed doctor or therapist by phone or video chat. So you can meet from the safety, comfort and privacy of your home. This type of virtual health care visit isn’t new. However, it has become a popular way for Aetna MA members to get mental health support during the pandemic. Since the start of the pandemic, almost half of all mental health visits have been done virtually, says Rose Mollitor, senior director of Aetna Medicare Product Innovation.

Virtual visits may not replace all in-person or in-home sessions. But the technology has made this type of care easier for everyone to access. “Particularly when there are barriers to care, like transportation, connecting loved ones who are experiencing feelings of social isolation with a specialist in this way can be a really powerful solution,” says Christopher Ciano, president of Medicare at Aetna®.

 

Resources for Living: Assisting with daily tasks

Sometimes, you just need support with your day-to-day life. Depending on your plan, you may have access to Aetna Resources for Living℠ (RFL). The RFL team can help conduct personalized research on a wide range of topics for you and your loved ones. For example, they can:

  • Pull together a list of qualified contractors for home and car repairs
  • Locate community centers in the neighborhood
  • Find assistance for emergency needs

 

Fitness classes: Good for the body and mind

There’s evidence of a connection between staying active and improved mental health. Even exercising two or three times a week could help decrease stress and boost your mood. To help keep you moving, many Aetna MA plans include SilverSneakers®.

This benefit gives you access to fitness classes at gyms around the country, and on-demand classes you can do in your living room. Plus, a companion app that lets you set and track health goals. Besides getting your blood pumping, these workouts are also an opportunity to connect with friends in or out of class.

Healthy aging involves maintaining more than just your physical health — it means caring for your mental health too. With your Aetna MA plan, you have the tools and resources you need to take care of the whole you — body, mind and spirit.

 

About the author

Bonnie Vengrow is a journalist based in NYC who has written for Parents, Prevention, Rodale’s Organic Life, Good Housekeeping and others. She’s never met a hiking trail she doesn’t like and is currently working on perfecting her headstand in yoga class.

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