by Joel E. Miller, Chair National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging 

The “Commonwealth Fund” Study on Older Adult Mental Health Needs compared rates of mental health conditions among older adults in the United States among those in 10 other high-income countries to assess whether U.S. mental health coverage through Medicare is sufficient. 

  • Among older adults in 11 high-income countries, U.S. Medicare beneficiaries were most likely to have a mental health diagnosis. 
  • The rate was highest for Hispanic/Latinx beneficiaries. 
    • Despite having one of the highest rates of mental health needs, U.S. Medicare beneficiaries are more likely to skip or delay needed care due to high out-of-pocket costs than older adults in any other high-income country. 
    • Medicare beneficiaries with mental health needs are also more likely to skip care compared to those without mental health needs. 
  • Despite the high need for mental health care services by older adults in the U.S. the supply of psychiatrists who accept Medicare has declined over time. 
  • Possible recommendations to address these findings are removing financial barriers to mental health services, addressing unmet social needs of individuals with mental health problems, and further investigating the high rates of mental health diagnoses among older Hispanic/Latinx adults.