More than 100 members of the American Counseling Association scaled Capitol Hill last week in 96-degree heat to advocate for legislation that would enable licensed professional counselors to be reimbursed by Medicare. The counselor advocates came from as far as the state of Washington and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to attend the ACA Institute for Leadership Training, where they learned about messaging, how to meet with elected representatives and their staff, and specific arguments in favor of legislation that would provide Medicare reimbursement to professional counselors.
On July 17, the ACA members, many of them branch presidents and officers, headed to the Hill for meetings with their representatives and their staff. The day began with a session in the Capitol Visitors Center, where Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) accepted the American Counseling Association Legislative Service Award for his leadership in Congress on the Medicare bill (S. 286 in the Senate, H.R. 945 in the House).
ILT attendees and congressional staff then heard a briefing from Dr. Matthew Fullen of Virginia Tech, who has researched the effects on clients and professional counselors that result from the lack of Medicare reimbursement for counselors. Afterward, the counselor/advocates spread out through the House and the Senate to ask their elected officials to support this important legislation.
As is often the case, meetings took place in the Members’ personal offices full of state and local memorabilia, in small meeting rooms, out in the hall with staff and in hallways during walks on the way to a Member’s next committee meeting. Advocates have to be flexible when a schedule meets reality during a busy day on Capitol Hill.
Our bipartisan Medicare bill now has 23 cosponsors in the Senate and 59 in the House. We expect to add many more as a result of the efforts of the ILT advocates. (The cosponsoring process can take a week or two.)
You can easily contact your representatives to ask them to become cosponsors by going to the ACA Take Action page and selecting “Tell Your Representatives to Support Medicare Reimbursement.”
And Save the Date! ACA will be joining the National Council for Behavioral Health Hill Day on Sept. 16 and 17. Come to Washington this fall to advocate for mental health and, specifically, for our Medicare reimbursement bill.