Insurance coverage may help with depression treatment - WSMV Channel 4

Insurance coverage may help with depression treatment

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Depression is a costly $80 billion a year issue in the workforce.

It can be a serious illness that's resistant to medication.

New Medicare coverage for depression treatment may offer a breakthrough for these patients.

As of Dec. 1, Medicare is now paying for a depression treatment called TMS.

"Medicare having a coverage policy is somewhat like having the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," said psychiatrist Dr. Scott West. "It gives it validity."

This is big news for mental healthcare leading other large insurance providers to review their policies to possibly cover the treatment which West claims is the only relief for a large population struggling with the debilitating effects of depression.

"There's about 14 million to 15 million people in the country that do, but only about 50 percent of people will respond to medications," said West.

Gayle Cherry had allergic reactions to antidepressants. After 20 years of no relief, the TMS therapy uses magnetic pulses to lift her mood.

"That repetitive stimulation into that area of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, releases the transmitters that antidepressants help to stimulate, but it does it not just in the one area of the brain," said West.

The scan of a depressed patient's brain is dark, but the blood flow and metabolism brighten up the brain after stimulation.

Without Medicare coverage, it would cost thousands of dollars for a series of treatments.

"It's going to be a wonderful thing," said Cherry.

"When people come back and say they have joy in their lives and when family tells them 'I haven't seen you like this since you were a teenager,' it's very compelling," said West.

West said that the studies really are uplifting with 78 percent of TMS patients showing some remission. He hopes with the Medicare coverage that the FDA will approve treatment for teens and pregnant women as well.

West has been treating patients with TMS therapy for a little over two years. Visit his website for information on the treatment and related studies.

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