New Cosponsors Join Bill to Expand Medicare Coverage for Mental Health Services
Several new cosponsors have signed onto a bill this month that would allow Medicare coverage for mental health services of marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors services. Currently, Medicare does not pay for services from these providers, an exclusion that limits patients’ access to services and unduly excludes an important class of professionals serving people with mental health and addiction disorders.
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R.3662/S.562) would amend Medicare to eliminate this payment prohibition with the goal of increasing patients’ access to behavioral health providers. The bill also calls for specific coverage of these professionals that provide care in rural health clinics, federally qualified health centers, and hospice programs. Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the bill in December 2013. It is currently cosponsored by: Jared Huffman (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Michael Michaud (D-ME), and Chellie Pingree (D-ME). Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Barrasso (R-WY). Senate cosponsors include: Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Angus King (I-ME). Similar versions of this legislation have been introduced in previous sessions of Congress.
This issue is particularly important for behavioral health providers in rural communities because it could expand total service capacity, and allow for a more diverse workforce to be covered by Medicare. The National Council strongly supports this bill. Stay tuned to Capitol Connector for the latest news and opportunities to take action on this important issue.