ACA Blog

DeeAnna Merz Nagel
Dec 16, 2009

LPCs, you are not in the Senate Bill

How important is it for LPCs and LMHCs to be included in the new health bill? I received this important memo today from the Georgia LPCA office and I thought it important enough to post here! Do what you can, even if you only accept private pay clients. Help grow your profession so we are recognized as equal and comparable mental health practioners!

CALL your family, friends, colleagues in the following states. Have them call their senator from their home or office phone. Have them call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 TODAY and everyday until we hear from the national lobbyist that LPCs are included.

Currently, only 13 Senators are cosponsors of S. 671, legislation introduced by Senator Blanche Lincoln (AR) to cover LPCs and marriage and family therapists under Medicare:
Senator Mark Begich (AK)
Senator Barbara Boxer (CA)
Senator Daniel Inouye (HI)
Senator Dick Durbin (IL)
Senator Carl Levin (MI)
Senator Byron Dorgan (ND)
Senator Jeff Bingaman (NM)
Senator Sherrod Brown (OH)
Senator Ron Wyden (OR)
Senator Jeff Merkley (OR)
Senator Tim Johnson (SD)
Senator Patty Murray (WA)
Senator John Barrasso (WY)

IF YOUR SENATORS ARE NOT ON THIS LIST, THEY SHOULD BE!
Contact them and ASK THEM TO COSPONSOR S. 671 to show support for establishing Medicare coverage of licensed professional counselors.

LET YOUR SENATORS KNOW that the Senate has already passed legislation establishing Medicare coverage of counselors twice, in both 2003 and 2005. Medicare eligibility for professional counselors is included in Section 1308 of the House health care bill, H.R. 3962.

If enough counselors call, email, and write letters to their Senators it will be hard to ignore Medicare eligibility of LMHCs/LPCs when Senate leaders meet with House leaders to meld together the two bills.

Including LPCs / LMHC will save money and increase access to services.

There are three compelling reasons for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) to become Medicare providers.

1) Counselors are clearly qualified. The training, supervision, and experience requirements for LPC licensure equal, and in some cases exceed, those of many current Medicare providers. Moreover, most private healthcare insurance programs currently recognize LPCs as qualified providers.

2) The availability of LPCs to provide counseling services to Medicare patients will result in more effective and efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Without counseling services, these patients -- many of whom are elderly, isolated, and lacking in mobility -- must seek support from family and community, where resources are already strained. The result is greater caregiver absences from work, reduced productivity, more workers’ compensation claims, more substance abuse, and poorer health in general across the community. The additional Medicare dollars spent on providing LPC services will be offset by the reduced strain on community resources.

3) The availability of LPCs as Medicare providers will reduce expenditures on hospitalization, by far the most inefficient use of taxpayer dollars in providing mental health services. Hospital systems are not designed to provide preventive care; the restorative care they can provide is limited, expensive, and often difficult to obtain; and the primary clinical focus of these systems is stabilization and release. Once released, mental health patients without counseling services have an even greater likelihood of being hospitalized again.

For these three reasons, we believe that it is imperative for LPCs to become Medicare providers.

As an LPC, even if you choose not to accept third-party payment as with Medicare, this is still an important issue. Senators in Georgia are our employees, just like in all the other states; let them know how they should be representing you!

For additional Information, contact the LPCA office LPCA@mindspring.com or call us 404-370-0200. You can also contact Scott Barstow, ACA’s Director of Public Policy and Legislation, at 800-347-6647 x234, e-mail: sbarstow@counseling.org, or AMHCA’s Director of Legislative Affairs, Julie A. Clements, J.D., at 800-326-2642 X 105, E-mail: jclements@amhca.org



DeeAnna Merz-Nagel is a clinical counselor, teacher, workshop presenter, sat on the ACA Cyber Technology Taskforce, and is co-founder of the Online Therapy Institute

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