ECT stands for electroconvulsive therapy and is another name for what was known in the past as electroshock therapy. This form of therapy has been used since 1938 as a psychiatric treatment for certain mental health disorders.

Today, doctors and psychiatrists use ECT most commonly to treat severe cases of depression when other forms of treatment are unsuccessful. Approximately 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression and some are helped by pharmaceuticals. If your health care provider has suggested ECT for you, you should find out more about how it helps and whether your Medicare insurance offers coverage.

What is ECT?
Electroconvulsive therapy is a safe and effective medical procedure that takes place while the patient is under general anesthesia in a hospital setting. During the procedure, weak currents of electricity are sent through the brain in order to induce brief seizures. These seizures make changes in the chemistry of the brain and helps reverse the symptoms of severe depression or other mental health conditions.

Depending on the individual circumstances, ECT treatments can take place 3 times a week for a total of 6 to 12 sessions. Each session of ECT takes about 15 minutes. Before each session, preparation takes an hour, and after a session, you can expect an hour for recovery.

Doctors most commonly recommend ECT treatment for the following conditions:

• Severe and/or treatment resistant depression
• Severe mania
• Catatonia
• Agitation and aggression in people with dementia

ECT may also be considered as an option for pregnant women who need treatment and cannot take medications, or for older people who have problems with the side effects of drugs. It is also important to note that ECT is never performed on someone who does not want this form of treatment.

Costs of ECT
In the United States, the average cost for one session of electroconvulsive therapy is around $2,500.00. This number is dependent on certain factors, including where you live and who your physician is. If you calculate an average need for 10 sessions, the final figure can reach $25,000.00, in addition to the cost of the hospital stay and any added expenses involved. It’s needless to say that ECT is not an inexpensive treatment without insurance coverage.

Medicare Coverage for ECT
Doctors most commonly administer ECT treatments in a hospital operating or recovery room in an inpatient or outpatient basis, depending on the individual case. If you receive ECT treatments as an inpatient at a hospital or skilled nursing facility, your Medicare Part A (hospital insurance) plan may help cover services you receive while you are formally admitted.

With Original Medicare Part A, you are responsible for the deductible for each benefit period. As of 2019 this amount is $1364.00. A benefit period begins on the day of your admission to the hospital and ends after 60 consecutive days of not receiving inpatient hospital care. The coinsurance payment is $0 for days 1-60 of in-hospital care.

With inpatient mental health care, you are also responsible for paying 20 percent of the final Medicare approved amount for any mental health services from doctors or other health care providers while you are in the hospital.

Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) may help cover the cost of ECT services you receive in an outpatient setting.  You are eligible for this coverage only if your doctor certifies that the treatment is medically necessary and you get ECT in a Medicare-approved facility. With Original Medicare Part B, you will likely pay 20 percent of the approved amount for services if your medical providers accept assignment. You are also responsible for paying the Part B deductible, which is $185.00 per year as of 2019.

ECT may provide effective treatment for patients with severe, psychotic, or suicidal depression. Your physician can give you information regarding this form of treatment, other options, and how your Medicare insurance coverage can help cover the expenses.

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