Joint Call to Action
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), American Counseling Association (ACA), and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are working in collaboration with the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition to urge your organization and your members to Contact Congress Today in support of passing the:
MENTAL HEALTH ACCESS IMPROVEMENT ACT (S.828/H.R. 432)
Passing the Mental Health Access Improvement Act would provide:
- 225,000 Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists the option to enroll as Medicare providers.
- Create a new stream of income for eligible Professional Counselors.
- Increase access to care for our nation’s Older Americans, the disabled population, and increase veteran’s provider choice for mental health care.
Where Are We Now:
- The U.S. House version of the bill passed out of the House Ways & Means Committee.
- The next step is for the full House of Representatives to Vote on this bill.
- The U.S. Senate version of the bill was included in the Senate Finance Committee’s draft package on improving the mental health workforce.
- The Senate may vote on a final package prior to the close of the 2022 Congressional Session.,
YOU CAN SUPPORT THE PROFESSION:
Over the past decade we, along with partner organizations have advocated for the successful passage of this bill. The bill has passed in both the House and Senate previously, however it has never happened at the same time. This is the first congressional session where passage of this bill in both chambers of Congress is realistic.
For bill passage to happen, we need for you to advocate for this bill. There are two major steps you must take:
- CONTACT YOUR SENATE HEALTH STAFFER: Below you will find a list of Senate Legislative Assistants. Please locate your Senator, and draft a brief e-mail to the staff contact informing them:
- The benefit that constituents in the state will have once the Mental Health Access Improvement Act passes.
- Clearly describe the issues you and your clients face because of the outdated Medicare Policy. Please see the examples below, to help you draft your e-mail:
- Provide a copy of the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition Congressional One Pager
- Note that outdated language in current Medicare coverage legislation has resulted in many individuals who rely on Medicare experiencing a variety of challenges to getting the care they need, including:
- Limited access to more affordable treatment options
- Lack of continuity of care when individuals in therapy either age into Medicare or become Medicare-eligible due to permanent disability
- Lack of access to 40% of behavioral health professionals with a master’s degree
- Barriers to better integration of physical and mental health care
- Lack of access to coordinated benefits for dual eligible beneficiaries and veterans with Medicare because LPC/MHCs and LMFTs are not recognized as Medicare providers
- Likelihood of foregoing or discontinuing therapy altogether for individuals living in rural areas with few or no available Medicare providers
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R.432) would close the gap in federal law that prevents MHCs/LPCs and LMFTs from being recognized as Medicare providers. The legislation would give Medicare beneficiaries immediate access to over more than 225,000 additional licensed mental health professionals and help close the widening treatment gap.
Proposed Common Messages:
- Several studies show that levels of anxiety and depressive disorders for older adults have doubled since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, but many lack access to providers and needed services.
- Inclusion of Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists in the Medicare Program would increase the pool of eligible providers by over 200,000 practitioners so that Medicare beneficiaries would gain better access to care for their mental health conditions.
- Mental health counselors and MFTs are licensed in all 50 states and well qualified to treat anxiety, depression, trauma, PTSD and addiction disorders, and several behavioral health conditions.
Proposed Common “Cost-Savings” Messages
- The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R. 432) will save money for the Medicare program.
- Mental health counselors (MHCs) and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) can reduce in-patient costs through the provision of cost-effective services.
- Older adults with mental illness have the highest Medicare costs – 2 to 3 times the cost of other beneficiaries. And untreated mental and substance use disorders among older adults exacerbate health conditions and increase overall Medicare health care costs.
- The legislation under consideration proposes to pay mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists only 75 percent of the psychologist’s rate for mental health services, thereby saving money when the lower cost provider is accessed.
- Congress can “bend the Medicare cost curve” through recognition of cost-efficient and effective providers by passing the Mental Health Access Improvement Act.
- The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R.432) would expand the availability of cost-effective providers under Medicare to help treat older adults and address the mental health crisis and the opioid epidemic.
Sample Email or Phone Call to Senators
Sample Email or Phone Call for Senators and Representatives
Scripts for Phone Calls
#HASHTAG FOR THE CAMPAIGN
In order to maximize the campaign’s visibility on social media, we propose using the hashtags #UpdateMedicare and #ICARE on all Facebook and Twitter posts. We encourage all social media posts from state-level members to include #UpdateMedicare or #ICARE.
TWEET AT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE OR SENATOR:
@YourSenator or @YourRepresentative, I’m a constituent from [City] and we need to include mental health counselors and marriage & family therapists in the Medicare program to improve access to mental health care for older adults. #UpdateMedicare or #ICARE!
@YourSenator, I’m a constituent from [City] and there’s a shortage of Medicare mental health/addiction providers. Please sign on to S. 828 or HR 432. #UpdateMedicare or #ICARE.
FACEBOOK POSTS AT YOUR REPRESENTATIVE OR SENATOR:
@SenatorX or @RepresentativeX, I am a constituent from [City] and a mental health counselor (or marriage and family therapist). There’s a shortage of mental health and substance abuse providers in the Medicare system, despite a significant increase in mental health and addiction disorders amongst older adults due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Please sign-on to the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828 or HR 432) to increase beneficiary access to cost-effective mental health counselors and MFTs and save Medicare money. #UpdateMedicare or #ICARE.
@SenatorX or @RepresentativeX, I am from [City] and your constituent. Recent studies and surveys show that the incidence of substance use and mental health disorder has increased substantially in elderly populations. We need licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists available to address this issue in a cost-effective manner and save money for Medicare. I ask you to support the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828 or HR 432) because #UpdateMedicare or #ICARE.