Bipartisan group asks CMS for data on seniors’ mental health conditions

Although CMS’ performance releasing Medicare data in many areas has been “commendable,” very little information is available about the mental and behavioral health conditions of seniors. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-Mich), Health Subcommittee Chairman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Jim McDermott (D-Wash) sent a letter to CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt, asking the agency to collect, analyze, and publish additional data on Medicare beneficiaries’ mental and behavioral health.

The bipartisan letter seeks more robust data about the extent and nature of mental and behavioral health conditions among Medicare beneficiaries. In current data releases, information about depression and psychosis/schizophrenia is included; however, data about mood or personality disorders is not, leaving the public and policymakers without access to valuable information. The letter also refers to the ongoing opioid epidemic, which the legislators note affects seniors just like Americans of other ages, and urges ensuring seniors’ privacy when such data is released.

Mental and behavioral health conditions are often not given as much attention as other health conditions; this omission is particularly egregious when taking into consideration that depression accompanies senior health conditions like diabetes and coronary artery disease, leading to significantly higher health costs. The legislators asked CMS for more detailed data, specifically about anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, personality disorders, and traumatic brain injury, to allow Medicare to meet the needs of seniors. Substance abuse data should also be made more widely available, with privacy measures such as de-identifying the data.