Mental Health Access Improvement Act
Medicare Advocacy Shifts to Senate
The House released its fifth COVID-19 relief package on Tuesday and counselor Medicare language was not included. While this is a setback, we still have the opportunity to pass of our legislation. At the direction of our congressional champions, AMHCA is now shifting our grassroots advocacy to the Senate. We are urging counselors to take up the charge and contact your Senator to add S. 286 into its COVID-19 package. The Senate timeline is unclear, but they appear on a slower track than the House so there remains time to influence the process.
We will not be included in the Senate COVID legislation if U.S. Senators don’t hear from you about the importance of S. 286. We urge you to contact your two Senators and ask them to include our Medicare bill in their stimulus package.
Contact your Senators today! Use the link below to find your Senator with email and phone numbers:
Find my Senator (top left corner)
Sample message for call or email [please fill in bracketed sections]:
I am a mental health counselor from [city/state]. I urge Senator [___] to include S. 286 in the COVID-19 relief bill currently under development. This legislation authorizes licensed mental health counselors to provide mental health and addiction services to Medicare beneficiaries. Research shows the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to create a behavioral health crisis and there are not enough mental health professionals to meet the needs of the Medicare population. I urge Senator [____] to increase the availability of behavioral health services by including S. 286 in the COVID-19 relief bill. Thank you for your consideration.
The United Parkinson's Advocacy Council has sent a letter (attached) to Congressional leaders in support of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 945 and S. 286), that would allow clinical mental health counselors to be reimbursed for treating Medicare beneficiaries. AMHCA has been working closely with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research – a major patient advocacy group -- on policy activities related to Medicare reimbursement for the profession. We are hopeful that such support will increase broader support of our Medicare bill in upcoming COVID-related economic stimulus packages that Congress will consider this year.Read the Letter
April 30, 2020
April 24, 2020 Update
On April 21, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released a report recommending mental health counselors be added to the list of Medicare providers. The timing couldn't be better as AMHCA ramps up efforts to motivate counselors to contact your legislators in support of including our Medicare legislation (H.R. 945/S. 286) in future COVID-19 relief legislation.
The BPC is a well-respected bipartisan think tank comprised of former senior policymakers. The report, "Confronting Rural America's Health Care Crisis", was prepared by the Rural Health Task Force, led by former Senate Majority Leaders Tom Daschle and Bill Frist, M.D. The report provides bipartisan policy recommendations to stabilize and transform rural health infrastructure, promote the uptake of value-based and virtual care, and ensure access to local providers. Adding licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to the list of Medicare-covered providers was a key recommendation for ensuring an adequate rural health care workforce.
The BPC highlighted how the report's policy recommendations offer solutions to the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic. This link parallels AMHCA's efforts to include our Medicare legislation in future COVID-19 stimulus legislation. AMHCA is working closely with our allied organizations from counseling, MFT, and behavioral health clinics to add our language to the next COVID bill. We have received some interest from congressional offices, but have much work to do.
To be successful, we need your help! It is imperative that U.S. Representatives and Senators hear from counselor constituents about the importance of H.R. 945 and S. 286. We urge you to contact your legislators today and ask them to include our Medicare bills in the next COVID-19 package.
Contact your Representative and Senator today!
Use the buttons to the left to find your federal legislators with email and phone numbers.
Sample message for call or email [fill in bracketed section providing separate messages to Representative and Senators]:
I am a mental health counselor from [city/state]. I urge [Rep. ____ / Sen. ____] to include [H.R. 945/S. 286] in the next COVID-19 relief bill. This legislation authorizes licensed mental health counselors to provide mental health and addiction services to Medicare beneficiaries. Research shows the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to create a behavioral health crisis and there are not enough mental health professionals to meet the needs of the Medicare population. I urge [Rep. ____ / Sen. ____] to increase the availability of behavioral health services by including [H.R. 945/S. 286] in the next COVID-19 relief bill. Thank you for your consideration.
On January 31st, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 286) was re-introduced by Senator Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI), and the same bill -- H.R. 945 -- was reintroduced and sponsored again by Representative Thompson (D-CA) and Representative Katko (R-NY) in the House. The bills, if passed, would allow mental health counselors to bill Medicare for treating older adults with mental health conditions. AMHCA was instrumental in accelerating the early introduction of S. 286 and H.R. 945 in the new Congressional session.
On August 4, 2019, three U.S. Senators -- Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to all Senators encouraging their fellow Senators to significantly modernize, strengthen and add benefits to the traditional Medicare Program. They have described their rationale in their communication and a key legislative piece -- S. 286, the Medicare Mental Health Access Improvement Act -- is one of the bills they are requesting the Senate pass so the Medicare program continues to provide value to current and future enrollees. Senator Stabenow is the co-sponsor of S. 286 with John Barrasso (R-WY).