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Senate Introduces the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021

by Katrina Lee | Mar 22, 2021
Under current regulations, psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses are currently recognized to offer covered mental health services under Medicare.

On March 18, 2021, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) announced the reintroduction of the S. 828, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021. This bipartisan bill addresses mental health care gaps for seniors by expanding the network of providers that can deliver mental and behavioral health services to Medicare beneficiaries. By providing mental health professionals the opportunity to participate in the Medicare program, this bill expands the number of mental health providers available to millions of Americans.  
 
“Improving access to mental health services is vitally important,” said Barrasso. “Our bipartisan Mental Health Access Improvement Act will expand the number of mental health professionals able to care for our nation’s seniors. This is critical for Wyoming and the rest of rural America, which often face the greatest shortage of mental health providers.”  

“So many older Americans are in urgent need of behavioral health services as a result of isolation and stress from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Stabenow. “Our bill gives seniors a greater choice of mental health providers so they can get the mental health 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 or marriage & family therapists who have the same training and education but are not able to be reimbursed by Medicare. This bill would close 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 historic bipartisan support for the bill with 123 cosponsors in the House and 31 cosponsors 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 and Commerce Committee.  

Help your profession break the congressional cycle of leaving counselors out of important policy conversations. The world is in a health crisis, and both our profession and clients are unnecessarily suffering due to the lack of federal policy that supports your needs. We need you to be the change. You have the expertise to empower your legislators with the information they need to include you in policy decisions. The American Counseling Association is calling on the counseling community to help us push this bill over the finish line.  

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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