News & Updates

Senator Renee Unterman Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee  CLICK HERE 

Representative Sharon Cooper Chair of the House of Representatives Health and Human Services Committee  CLICK HERE 

MEDICARE

The identical bills are numbered S.1830 and are known as “The Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2015.”

Background and Justification

About 50 percent of rural counties have no practicing psychiatrists or psychologists. MHCs and MFTs are often the only mental health providers in many communities, and yet they are not now recognized as covered providers within the Medicare program. These therapists have equivalent or greater training, education and practice rights as currently eligible provider groups that can bill for mental health services through Medicare.

Other government agencies already recognize these professions for independent practice, including the National Health Service Corps, the Dept. of Veterans’ Affairs and TRICARE. Medicare needs to utilize the skills of these providers to ensure that beneficiaries have access to necessary mental health services.

  • Lack of Access in Rural and Underserved Areas--Approximately 77 million older adults live in 3,000 mental health professional shortage areas. Fully 50 percent of rural counties in America have no practicing psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers. However, many of these mental health professional shortage areas have MHCs whose services are underutilized due to lack of Medicare coverage.
  • Medicare Inefficiency--Currently, Medicare is a very inefficient purchaser of mental health services. Inpatient psychiatric hospital utilization by elderly Medicare recipients is extraordinarily high when compared to psychiatric hospitalization rates for patients covered by Medicaid, VA, TRICARE, and private health insurance. One-third of these expensive inpatient placements are caused by clinical depression and addiction disorders that can be treated for much lower costs when detected early through the outpatient mental health services of MHCs.
  • Underserved Minority Populations--The United State Surgeon General noted in a report entitled Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity that “striking disparities in access, quality, and availability of mental health services exist for racial and ethnic minority Americans.” A critical result of this disparity is that minority communities bear a disproportionately high burden of disability from untreated or inadequately treated mental disorders.
  • Medicare provider eligibility for MHCs and MFTs is long overdue--These two professions represent over 40 percent of today’s licensed mental health practitioners. Unfortunately, Medicare has not been modernized to recognize their essential contribution in today’s health delivery system. Congressional scoring rules obscure the dollars saved by utilizing their services to treat mental health conditions before they exacerbate physical disorders or become more serious mental illness.

Voice your support by calling the Georgia Senator Isakson, phone 202-224-3643, ask the staff simply by saying, "I can calling to voice my support for SB 1830, I live in (city) in Georgia and I am asking Senator Isakson to co-sponsor SB 1830 please.  If you would like more information my phone number is (cell or work).  Thank you."


LPCA is the reason LPC's can diagnose and have 1013 Privileges!