Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR) and John Barrasso (R-WY) have introduced legislation—S. 562, the “Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013”—in Congress to cover counselors under Medicare. As with previous versions of the legislation, the bill would cover counselors for the same medically necessary outpatient psychotherapy Medicare covers now when provided by clinical social workers, and at the same rates. The legislation also covers licensed marriage and family therapists. Both chambers have passed this legislation twice over the past decade. However, it has not yet passed both the House and Senate in the same session of Congress.
Congress is expected to pass Medicare legislation later this year to address a pending cut in physician payment rates. There are several reasons Congress should include S. 562 within a broader package of Medicare provisions:
—The Medicare beneficiary population is beginning to skyrocket with the aging of the Baby Boom generation; Medicare already has a shortage of mental health providers in many parts of the country, and this shortage will get significantly worse unless Congress expands the pool of covered providers
—Private sector health plans have covered licensed professional counselors for many years, because they recognize that counselors are cost-effective providers of mental health services
—Health care policy researchers have repeatedly found that untreated depression significantly increases the costs of treating widely prevalent general medical conditions such as diabetes or congestive heart failure; even a small increase in treatment costs for the beneficiary population with diabetes and a comorbid depressive disorder would more than cover the cost of covering counselors under Medicare
—Legislation covering counselors under Medicare has a long history of bipartisan support, with Republican and Democrat sponsors in both chambers over the years.
ACA asks counselors to contact their Senators to ask them to cosponsor S. 562. You can find more information on the legislation, find out who your Senators are, and see draft text for contacting them at ACA’s internet legislative action center at http://capwiz.com/counseling. We also have information on the bill at our main webpage at Medicare issue paper<http://www.counseling.org/public-policy/current-issues/position-papers/2013/03/19/medicare-coverage-of-licensed-professional-counselors-bill-introduced-in-113th-congress>, and a one-page briefing paper at Medicare handout<http://www.counseling.org/docs/public-policy-faqs-and-documents/medicare-coverage-of-lpcs—march-2013.pdf?sfvrsn=4>.
In the current fiscal environment, members of Congress won’t support additional spending on Medicare unless their constituents ask them to. Please take a moment to contact your Senators and tell them, in your own words, why Medicare should cover counselors, and why you want them to cosponsor S. 562. The more cosponsors we get on S. 562, the better our chances of having it included in broader Medicare legislation passed by Congress later this year.
For more information, contact:
Scott Barstow | Director, Public Policy and Legislation
ph 703-823-9800 x234 | 800-347-6647 x234
fx 703-823-0252 | www.counseling.org