On September 21, 2022 the House Ways & Means (W&M) Committee held a markup that included consideration of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R.432), as well as other Medicare improvement bills that were included in Committee Print 117-2. The Mental Health Access Improvement Act would close the gap in federal law that prevents mental health counselors from being recognized as Medicare providers. The W&M Committee voted Committee Print 117-2 favorably in a voice vote, which advances the legislation to the full House for consideration and brings us one step closer to getting the bill passed.
In his opening statement, Ranking Member Kevin Brady (R-TX) discussed the lack of foundational support that exists for mental health services in the U.S. and how the COVID-19 pandemic “pulled back the curtain” on that lack of support. Ranking Member Brady said Committee Print 117-2 is a great opportunity for the Committee to shape important health policies in a bipartisan way that will leave a lasting, positive imprint.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA), the lead sponsor for H.R.432, advocated for the bill citing ample evidence of seniors suffering from a multitude of mental health conditions that can be diagnosed and treated when the proper resources are provided, including mental health counseling services. The bill, if passed, would add thousands of qualified mental health counselors to the Medicare covered provider list, increasing accessibility to mental health services for seniors, especially in rural areas. Rep. Thompson ended his discussion time by driving home his view that everything Congress has done and are currently doing only treats the symptoms of the mental health crisis in the U.S., and additional funding is sorely needed to get to the bottom of these problems.
Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) mentioned that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has agreed to create an updated score for the legislation. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) applauded Rep. Thompson’s continued efforts to have H.R.432 passed into law and how his constituents have urged for the addition of mental health counselors to the Medicare program. Rep. Doggett made a point to commend H.R.432 while voicing doubt on the necessity of the other bills included in Committee Print 117-2.
It is unclear whether the House Democratic leadership plans to consider the markup’s legislation before the end of 2022. We will continue to monitor and update you as things progress. If you would like to become involved in ACA’s advocacy efforts, you can contact the ACA Government Affairs and Public Policy team at email@example.com.