Every mental health professional knows that it’s vital that Congress approve Medicare reimbursement for licensed professional counselors (LPCs). All of you know more than one heart-rending story about the difficulties and potential harm facing senior citizens in America who do not have access to a licensed professional counselor.
One particularly moving story about the desperate situation facing seniors was published online recently by Psychotherapy Networker. This article tells the story of a retired mental health-care worker whose wife simultaneously faced the onset of leukemia; an agonizing end-of-life prognosis; a diagnosis of bipolar disorder; and acute mental health distress related to her physical condition, diagnosis and the effects of her treatment—all while living in a community where the only immediately available clinicians were LPCs who were not Medicare-approved. The unnecessary pain that his wife endured turned the husband into an activist fighting to include mental health counselors (MHCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) as approved health-care providers, closing a desperate mental-health-care gap for his state’s seniors.
Send Us Your Stories
We want to hear stories from American Counseling Association members that clearly, compellingly, and anonymously illustrate the consequences of the fact that LPCs are not eligible Medicare providers. These may involve a client on Medicaid who moved to Medicare at 65, someone who had counseling coverage through their employer until they retired or someone like the desperately ill woman in the story above who suddenly—and acutely—needed counseling in their later years. We will present the stories of these struggles to members of Congress as we explain why Medicare reimbursement is so vitally important. Please send this information to SMacConomy@counseling.org Including your city and state would facilitate sharing these stories on Capitol Hill.
ACA’s Advocacy Efforts
The American Counseling Association has been advocating in recent years for legislation that would make LPCs eligible Medicare providers—and hopes to see this measure passed into law in 2019. The legislation has passed the House twice and the Senate twice, but has never passed in both houses in the same Congress.
Working with the Medicare Access Coalition, ACA has met with members of Congress and their staff to explain the benefits of passing this legislation—for America’s seniors and for LPCs. Using the ACA VoterVoice online advocacy system, we have helped ACA members send thousands of emails to their representatives in Congress in support of the Medicare reimbursement issue.
The New Congress
Our bill sponsors, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) have introduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act in the Senate (S.286) and the House (H.R.945) to make LPCs eligible for Medicare Reimbursement. We are also meeting with the new members of the House and Senate to familiarize them with the Medicare reimbursement issue.
How Can You Help?
In addition to sending ACA your stories of those affected by the lack of Medicare reimbursement, you can help by going to the ACA Take Action page, clicking on “Support Legislation That Would Provide Medicare Reimbursement to Counselors” and sending an email to your elected representatives. You can call your members of Congress at 202-224-3121.
It’s time to add mental health counseling to the other professions that receive Medicare reimbursement for providing treatment to America’s seniors. You know better than most Americans how important this issue is. Please add your voice to this critical process.