Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health disorders in the United States. This mood disorder is highly common, with more than three million cases diagnosed each year. Depression is often experienced as having persistent feelings of sadness and disinterest in activities. It can also impact your work life, family relationships and friendships, the activities you participate in, sleep quality and duration, and much more. Transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS, is a treatment option for depression that has been growing in popularity over the past decade or so. This therapy is non-invasive, shows potential for many clients, and is covered by many Medicare plans.

What is TMS?
TMS therapy uses a device to generate magnetic fields that can stimulate the brain. These fields work to alter the brain’s chemistry and reduce symptoms of depression. During a TMS treatment session, a magnetic coil is placed against the head near your forehead. The coil delivers electromagnetic pulses directly to the brain cells to stimulate them. Treatment sessions often last about 45 minutes, and a total of 20 to 30 treatments are required to ensure optimal effectiveness.

This placement allows the magnetic pulses to hit your prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for controlling decision making, social behavior, personality and cognitive behavior. With depression, this area of the brain can show decreased activity, which can lead to many of the negative side effects of the disease. Directly activating this region can help to ease the symptoms of depression and improve your overall mood.

TMS treatment is not recommended for every case of depression, but it does provide a non-invasive treatment option compared to other electromagnetic therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). While highly successful, ECT requires patients to be sedated under anesthesia and involves implanting electrodes that cause therapeutic seizures to occur.

TMS is also often used as a solution when treatment with antidepressant medications has been ineffective. Medications do not always work for everyone, and TMS provides an alternative therapy option for individuals seeking relief. TMS can be used as a primary treatment in some cases, but many individuals opt for antidepressant prescriptions initially.

TMS treatment is associated with very few side effects. Some potential complications include a minor headache, slight discomfort at the point where the stimulation occurs, lightheadedness, or tingling of the facial muscles. However, these side effects generally fade quickly and lessen in severity with additional treatment sessions.

Do Medicare Benefits Cover TMS Treatments?

Due to this treatment’s success rates, Medicare has started offering increased coverage for it. For you to become eligible to use your Medicare benefits to cover this treatment, you must have been diagnosed by your Medicare-approved physician as having severe major depressive disorder.

Additionally, you must have already attempted to treat your symptoms using medications. If you are unable to take medications due to health reasons or if you have a history of depression and medications did not work in the past, you may be able to seek treatment with TMS initially.

When you are looking for a physician that provides this therapy, be sure that they are approved by Medicare and that they accept assignment. If both are not confirmed, you may be responsible for paying for the TMS sessions completely out of pocket.

According to Medicare’s policies, you will likely be responsible for paying your annual deductible, monthly premiums, and 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount once your deductible has been met. Each TMS session generally costs between $400 and $500. If your treatment is approved,  you may be responsible for paying 20 percent of this cost for each session you undergo.

Before deciding to pursue TMS treatment, check to see what your specific Medicare plan covers. Medicare Advantage plans may offer additional benefits as well as Part A and Part B coverage. You should also compare costs as treatment may differ in cost.

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