Start Healing Substance Abuse in Older Adults: Use Medicare Preventative Services

A 2018 report indicated that around 1 million individuals aged 65 or older were living with substance abuse disorders. Overcoming substance abuse disorder is a demanding process, requiring significant effort to achieve and maintain sobriety. Therefore, preventing the disorder in the first place should be a top priority. Medicare offers several preventative services that can help address substance abuse both before it starts and after the impact of substance use.

Alcohol Misuse Screenings & Counseling

Medicare Part B covers alcohol misuse screenings and counseling for adults once per year. However, this service is classified as preventative care, so individuals who are medically diagnosed as alcohol dependent are not eligible. If a primary care doctor or another healthcare provider determines that an individual is misusing alcohol, they can receive up to four short face-to-face counseling sessions per year. These sessions are free of cost if the healthcare provider accepts Medicare. Both screenings and counseling occur in primary care settings, such as a doctor’s office.

Hepatitis C Screening

Hepatitis C screening is covered by Medicare if ordered by a primary care doctor or another healthcare provider when specific conditions are met. These conditions include:

  • Having had blood transfusions before 1992
  • Being born between 1945 and 1965
  • Having a history of illicit drug injection

If an individual born between 1945 and 1965 does not have a high-risk history (such as illicit drug injection), Medicare will cover one screening. For those at considerable risk, Medicare will cover annual screenings.

Lung Cancer Screening

Medicare Part B covers lung cancer screening using low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) if the individual meets all the following criteria:

  • Aged 55 to 77
  • No signs or symptoms of lung cancer
  • Current smoker or quit smoking within the past 15 years
  • Tobacco smoking history averaging one pack per day for 20 years (“20 pack-years”)
  • An order from a doctor or healthcare provider

Take advantage of these preventative services offered by Medicare by asking for them for yourself or your loved one. In this way, older adults can reduce their risk of developing substance abuse disorders or mitigate its effects to maintain healthier lifestyles.


  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2020, July). Substance use in older adults drugfacts. Substance Use in Older Adults DrugFacts | National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) (
  2. gov. (n.d.). Preventive & screening services. preventive services (


This project was supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $94,686 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.