In February, the House, Senate, and President agreed to a legislative package extending Medicare physician payment rates at current levels through the end of 2012.
In February, the House, Senate, and President agreed to a legislative package extending Medicare physician payment rates at current levels through the end of 2012. Congress was unable to reach agreement on a permanent solution to the "doc fix" issue, though, which means that barring more action, Medicare physician payment rates will drop by 27% percent on January 1, 2013.
Given the effects that would have on beneficiaries and providers, Congress isn't likely to let that happen, and so legislation to postpone the cuts, at least temporarily, is expected to be passed sometime in a lame-duck session after the November elections. This legislative package will be the next vehicle we have for attaching language to establish Medicare coverage of licensed professional counselors.
Last year Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced S. 604, the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2011, to establish Medicare coverage of both licensed professional counselors and licensed marriage and family therapists. So far, only nine Senators have joined them as cosponsors of this bill:
Senator Mark Begich (D-AK)
Senator Jeff Bingman (D-NM)
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND)
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)
Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI)
Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD)
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
We would like to have two or three times as many Senators cosponsoring this bill! ACA asks counselors to contact both of their Senators to ask them to cosponsor S. 604. The more cosponsors we can get on S. 604, the better our chances of getting a seat on the train at the end of the year, when Congress moves legislation to address the physician payment rate issue.
We would also like to have a House bill introduced as a counterpart to S. 604. We urge counselors to contact their Representative to ask them to consider introducing legislation like S. 604.
For more information on how you can help advocate on this issue, please feel free to contact Art Terrazas with ACA at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 800-347-6647 x242.