ACA is proud to announce that for the first time in five years, a bill that calls for the reimbursement of Licensed Professional Counselors by Medicare has been introduced in the United States House of Representatives.
Representative Chris Gibson (R-NY) recently introduced H.R. 3662, the “Mental Health Access Improvement Act”, a companion bill to S. 562. Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) served as the co-sponsor of the bill.
Representative Gibson stated that, “This legislation provides an important expansion of mental health access for Medicare recipients. By adding thousands of highly qualified licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to the provider network, the bill ensures continuity of care without adding new services or altering the scope of practice.”
Thanks to Representative Gibson’s work and his initiative, we are one step closer towards our goal of Medicare reimbursement. In the coming months, your Government Affairs team will be working to promote this bill with our collation partners and other groups.
If you would like to review the legislation, you can do so by clicking:
thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php and searching for H.R. 3662
If you would like to know more about Rep. Gibson and his career, you can read his official biography.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Please call or e-mail your Representative and ask them to co- sponsor H.R. 3662 the “Mental Health Access Improvement Act”. Let your Representatives know that this is a bi-partisan bill that has been supported by Republicans in the past, and is supported by both parties now. You can also let them know that private sector health plans have been covering counselors for many years.
You can find out who your Representative is by visiting the ACA "Take Action" page.
Medicare is the nation's largest health insurance program, covering roughly 43 million older Americans (65 or older), and approximately 9 million Americans with disabilities. The program was established in 1965.
Medicare has covered psychologists and clinical social workers since 1989, but does not cover licensed professional counselors. Many Medicare beneficiaries live in mental health professional shortage areas, and there are more than 120,000 licensed professional counselors across the country ready to provide needed treatment. Lack of access to outpatient mental health treatment harms beneficiaries, and contributes to overutilization of expensive inpatient care. It also increases the costs of treating chronic medical conditions such as diabetes or congestive heart failure, since many individuals with these conditions have a comorbid depressive disorder.
Medicare coverage of counselors is not a partisan issue, nor is it a new issue. The Senate passed legislation establishing Medicare reimbursement of licensed professional counselors in both 2003 and 2005, during Republican control of that chamber. The House of Representatives has also approved such language twice, in both 2007 and 2009, under Democratic control.
H.R. 3662 will improve Medicare beneficiaries' access to outpatient mental health care in a cost-effective manner, by establishing coverage of highly-qualified LPCs. The current shortage of mental health professionals available to Medicare beneficiaries is going to get significantly worse over the coming years, as the baby boom generation enrolls in the program and current mental health service providers retire. Research shows that licensed professional counselors are proportionately more likely to work in rural and underserved areas than are clinical social workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists.