I’ve previously reported here about provision of psychotherapy to the Medicare population. Another valuable service psychologists and other health professionals provide to those with Medicare is diagnostic psychological and neuropsychological testing. These assessment methods can help clarify diagnoses, formulate treatment plans, measure recovery or progress of conditions, and effects of treatment. To what extent are these being provided to Medicare beneficiaries? CMS’s “provider utilization” data can provide some answers.
Analyses of the utilization data from 2013 through 2015 show that Medicare beneficiaries were provided slightly less than 200,000 hours of psychological testing in 2015. (These analyses are for testing performed “by psychologist or physician,” and do not include technician- or computer-administered testing.) This was decreased by about 9% from the peak among these years of about 215,000 hours, in 2013. In contrast, nearly 600,000 hours of neuropsychological testing were provided in 2015, within an increasing trend during these years, amounting to an increase of about 10% from 2012.
The CMS data show that 136,583 Medicare beneficiaries received neuropsychological testing in 2015, well under 1% of the Medicare population. Given the likely prevalence of known or suspected dementia and other brain-related conditions in the Medicare population, enrollees may have substantially limited access to such assessment. Growth in the number of psychologists providing neuropsychological testing is encouraging, but the relatively limited numbers suggests a useful area for professional and workforce development, as well as education to Medicare enrollees and health care professionals about the benefits of undergoing and referring for this inexpensive and non-invasive diagnostic procedure.