On Jan. 31, Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Representative John Katko (R-NY) introduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2019. This measure would include Licensed Professional Counselors (LPCs) and Marriage and Family Therapists as covered Medicare providers.
Why this bill is important.
Medicare does not include Licensed Professional Counselors in its coverage. Medicare beneficiaries are often at higher risk for mental health problems, such as depression and opioid addiction, yet older Americans are the least likely to receive mental health services. Only 1 in 5 older Americans receive needed mental health care, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
Medicaid recipients can see an LPC and Medicaid will cover them—until they reach 65. Many individuals with private health insurance have mental health coverage but, once they retire, find that they can no longer afford to see an LPC. The passage of this legislation will enable Medicare to help the 4 out 5 seniors currently not receiving much-needed mental health care. In rural areas, there are often more LPCs available than all of the other types of mental health professionals, combined, in practice.
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