This week, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have moved forward with legislation to add MFTs, as well as counselors, as Medicare-eligible providers!
House of Representatives: On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee met to discuss and vote to move several bills to the full House of Representatives, a process known as a committee markup. At this markup, the Ways and Means committee unanimously voted to move to the full House for consideration the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 432) – legislation that would add MFTs and MHCs as Medicare providers.
This vote is an important step in the process of moving the Mental Health Access Improvement Act through Congress. AAMFT would like to thank Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA) and John Katko (R-NY) for sponsoring H.R.432. In addition, we greatly appreciate Representative Thompson’s efforts, as a member of the Ways and Means Committee, to move this legislation forward and to speak so strongly in support of H.R. 432 during Wednesday’s hearing. In this markup on Wednesday, the legislation to add LMFTs and LMHCs as Medicare providers (H.R. 432) passed in a package along with four other bills related to mental health and substance use disorder treatment.
Senate: In addition to action by the House Ways and Means Committee this week, the Senate also took action in support of S. 828, the Senate version of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. On Thursday, four members of the Senate Finance Committee released a discussion draft of legislation to address mental health workforce needs and challenges. Released by Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID), Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), this draft includes legislation to add LMFTs and LMHCs as Medicare providers (S. 828), along with many other provisions to expand the behavioral health workforce.
The release of this draft represents the most important action by the Senate in twelve years pertaining to adding LMFTs and LMHCs as Medicare providers. AAMFT would like to thank Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Stabenow for sponsoring S. 828. We would also like to thank Senator Stabenow and the other three Senators for all of their work on this discussion draft.
This is the third discussion draft released by the Finance Committee, as the Committee previously released drafts pertaining to telehealth and youth mental health. As mentioned in an AAMFT Blog article earlier this year, the Finance Committee started soliciting comments a year ago from stakeholders to gather information on legislative proposals that will improve access to healthcare services for Americans with behavioral health disorders. AAMFT and many other organizations submitted comments.
In addition to the inclusion of MFTs and MHCs as Medicare providers, this discussion draft, known as the Behavioral Health Workforce of the Future Act, would make many other significant changes to enhance the mental health workforce, such as funding 400 additional Graduate Medical Education slots for psychiatry residencies, updating Medicare coverage for licensed clinical social workers, and allowing psychologist trainees to provide services under the general supervision, as opposed to the direct supervision, of a licensed clinical psychologist. Of particular note, this draft would expand the current Medicare Health Professional Shortage Area bonus program to increase bonus payments for psychiatrists who practice in shortage areas, as well as for the first time allow for MFTs, MHCs, psychologists, clinical social workers, and other non-physician providers to receive bonuses when they provide services to Medicare enrollees while practicing in health professional shortage areas. This provision is the first legislative text ever introduced that would allow LMFTs and LMHCs to receive these particular bonus payments when providing those services.
The next step for this legislation in the House of Representatives would be to have a vote by the full House to pass H.R. 432. Since Congress is not in session for much of October, any such vote would likely not occur until after the midterm elections on November 8. AAMFT and its allies will be encouraging the Senate to move forward on this discussion draft and other behavioral health proposals.
AAMFT would like to thank all Family TEAM members, other AAMFT members, and their allies and friends who have submitted grassroots messages to Members of Congress in support of the MFTs in Medicare legislation in both the House and Senate. These messages have led to Members of Congress supporting this important legislation.
Do you want to help continue the momentum? Please thank your Members of Congress in the House and Senate who have supported adding MFTs as Medicare providers. If you have not already done so, you can advocate for MFTs as Medicare providers by sending a message to your Members of Congress through AAMFT’s grassroots portal urging your Members of Congress to support MFTs as Medicare providers. AAMFT has also created a special grassroots message that friends and family of AAMFT members can send to their Members of Congress to advocate for this vital legislation. Please contact us at FamilyTEAM@aamft.org if you have any questions.
House Ways and Means Committee’s press release on passage of H.R. 432 and other healthcare bills
Representative Mike Thompson’s press release on H.R. 432
Senate Finance Committee’s press release on mental health workforce discussion draft that includes S. 828.
Summary of the Behavioral Health Workforce of the Future Act Senate Finance Committee draft.