The American Counseling Association’s signature legislative priority—Medicare reimbursement for Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs)—gained support and momentum in three ways over the past few weeks. As a result, everyone in favor of this policy change is now positioned to make another (hopefully final) push for the adoption of two companion measures, H.R. 3032, the Mental Health Improvement Act of 2017, and S. 1879, the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017, passage of which would lead the president to sign the change into law.
AARP Announces Support
The American Counseling Association is very proud to announce that AARP, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to working on behalf of the interests of Americans 50 years of age and older, has endorsed both H.R. 3032 and S. 1879, the bills that would allow Medicare payments for beneficiary treatment by LPCs.
AARP submitted letters to Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY), the sponsors of the measures, stating the organization’s endorsement of their bills. In its letter, AARP noted the growing mental health needs of the U.S. population of older adults, including the fact that one in five have either a mental health or substance use condition that would require access to a mental health provider.
Support from AARP for this long-sought legislation is a significant boost to help get LPCs the recognition they need—and to get older Americans access to the care that they deserve.
Spending Bill Points to Medicare, Mental Health
The need to provide mental health care to Medicare recipients received helpful attention when it was noted in the $1.3 trillion spending measure passed by the Senate on March 23. That bill recognizes the need to make more mental health providers available to Medicare beneficiaries. This recognition provides crucial support as we begin to speak to Representatives and Senators about passing H.R. 3032 and S. 1879 in the next few months.
Medicare Reimbursement for LPCs: The Numbers
The American Counseling Association is pleased to announce that it commissioned a first-of-its-kind report to calculate the true cost of allowing LPCs to be reimbursed by Medicare. The report, conducted by Dobson-DaVanzo, a health economics and policy consulting firm, estimated the cost of the legislation today at only six percent more than when it was first estimated in 2010. According to the report, it would cost $638 million to cover LPCs under Medicare for the next 10 years, which is $38 million more than estimated eight years ago when the Congressional Budget Office scored the provision.
The report notes a need for Medicare coverage for those who are coming into the program as they turn 65, as well as an unmet need for medically discharged veterans in need of care as they transfer from TRICARE to Medicare.
ACA advocates who have met with their federal lawmakers know that one of the questions always asked is what the cost of a policy change would be. This study provides useful data to answer that question.
How to Help
While there is still a lot of work to do, these developments are extremely helpful as we continue to take up the challenge to pass this measure. ACA looks forward to working with all of its members and allies to make this long-sought bill a reality.
If you would like to get involved in the ACA advocacy efforts, please contact Dillon Harp, Grassroots Coordinator, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone at 800-347-6647, extension 202.