Mental Health Access Improvement Act
September 9, 2020
House Committee Passes Mental Health Counselor Medicare Legislation
Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved HR 945 in an historic vote supporting Medicare coverage for the counseling profession. While this legislation has passed both the House and Senate twice over the years, never before has the bill been voted on as a standalone measure rather than part of a broader package.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr’s (D-NJ) opening remarks described HR 945 as “bipartisan legislation that would improve access to mental health providers in the Medicare program by covering mental health counselor and marriage and family therapist services.”
The sponsors of HR 945, Congressmen Mike Thompson (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY), fought hard for inclusion of the legislation in the markup. They worked closely with committee staff and Members to build support for passage. Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) also pushed for the bill, speaking on its behalf at the markup calling it a “blessing” and stating that “passage is a priority to me.” The Committee reported the bill to the full House by voice vote.
The future of HR 945 in this Congress is difficult to forecast. There are limited legislative workdays before Members leave for campaigning in October, although there is expected to be a post-election lame duck session that may provide additional opportunity. Further, a Senate calendar packed with COVID relief legislation and annual appropriations is offering little room for movement of our Senate companion bill, S. 286.
While the President’s signature cannot be guaranteed in the 116th Congress, this historic vote shouldn’t be underestimated. There remain paths for passage this year, and even if success is elusive, the Committee approval strengthens the chance for approval in the next Congress when mental health legislation is anticipated.
AMHCA thanks all members and leaders who contacted your Representatives in support of HR 945. We wouldn’t have been successful without your efforts and urge you to keep up the good work when we make our next push. We also encourage you to contact your Representatives, particularly our champions, to thank them for their support. You can use the following link to find your Representative with email and phone numbers: Find my Representative