Add screening for depression and excessive drinking to the list of preventive services that Medicare beneficiaries can now get for free, thanks to new rules from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). And a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention highlights the high economic cost of alcohol abuse.
For example, Marvin M. Lipman, M.D., chief medical adviser to Consumer Reports, says that simply asking “How often do you have more than five drinks a night?” can help identify problem drinkers. (Any positive answer warrants more careful follow up, he says.) And we’ve reported that answering yes to either of the following questions warrants a more thorough evaluation of depression: Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed, or hopeless? Have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing the things you generally enjoy?
Screening for depression and excessive drinking joins a long list of preventive services now covered for many (though not all) Medicare beneficiaries, including smoking cessation, bone-density testing, cholesterol and blood-sugar measurements, screening for breast and colon cancer, and vaccines against the flu and pneumonia. See Medicare.gov for details.
The CDC report focused especially on the importance of screening for excessive drinking, noting that the cost of excessive alcohol consumption reached $223.5 billion or about $1.90 per drink. Almost three-quarters of the costs were due to binge drinking, consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men, the report said.