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Representatives Mike Thompson and John Katko Re-Introduce the Mental Health Access Improvement Act

by Katrina Lee | Jan 25, 2021
This bipartisan bill addresses mental health care gap for seniors by expanding the network of provider that can deliver mental and behavioral health services to Medicare beneficiaries.

On January 21, 2021, Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Rep. John Katko (NY-24) announced the reintroduction of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. This bipartisan bill addresses mental health care gap for seniors by expanding the network of provider that can deliver mental and behavioral health services to Medicare beneficiaries.

“Often seniors are at a greater risk for mental illnesses and can find it hard to get access to the mental health services they need. That’s why I’ve reintroduced my bill to help close the gap for seniors by allowing them to see a wider range of qualified mental health care providers through Medicare,” said Thompson. “When we address these mental health care needs, we help ensure they don’t lead to greater health problems that can be costly for our nation’s seniors. I am glad to again introduce this important bill and to continue my work caring for the health and well-being of older Americans.”

“I’m proud to join my colleague Rep. Thompson in re-introducing the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. This important bipartisan legislation would improve access to mental healthcare for older Americans and alleviate the strain on our nation’s mental health and addiction treatment workforce,” said Katko. “At home in Central New York and in Congress, I’ll continue fighting to ensure individuals and families have access to the care they need.”

Under current regulations, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses are currently recognized to offer covered mental health services under Medicare. This does not include mental health counselors and marriage & family therapists who have the same training and education but are not able to be reimbursed by Medicare. This bill closes that gap by adding those providers to the list of those accessible to Medicare beneficiaries. 

The American Counseling Association has been advocating for the inclusion of licensed professional counselors for years. Last year, we gained bi-partisan support for the bill with 123 co-sponsors in the House and 31 co-sponsors in the Senate. Through our advocacy efforts, we were also able to get the Mental Health Access Improvement Act voted out of the House Energy & Commerce Committee. As we continue to push for the full inclusion of licensed professional counselors under Medicare, we will keep you updated.

If you have questions or would like to become involved in ACA’s advocacy efforts, please contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at advocacy@counseling.org.

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