The 117th Congress is considering the Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2021 (S. 828/H.R. 432). In the Senate, the bill (S. 828) was introduced by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and currently has 11 additional cosponsors: Sens. Collins (R-ME), Brown (D-OH), King (I-ME), Shaheen (D-NH), Boozman (R-AR), Smith (D-MN), Murphy (D-CT), Murkowski (R-AK), Carper (D-DE), Grassley (R-IA), and Ernst (R-IA). The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee. In the House, the bill (H.R. 432) was introduced by Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA-5) and John Katko (R-NY-24) and has 32 additional cosponsors from 21 states. The bill has been referred to the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.
If passed, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act would allow mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to bill Medicare for counseling services. The addition of counselors and marriage and family therapists would give Medicare beneficiaries access to over 225,000 licensed behavioral health providers. COVID-19 has dramatically impacted older adults; isolation and fears regarding personal well-being and health have resulted in increased anxiety and depression for this population. A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation1 revealed that a quarter of older adults has reported anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for mental health services for Medicare beneficiaries has been dramatically brought to the forefront by the COVID pandemic. Counselors and marriage and family therapists are prepared to help this population.
Fast Facts About Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists:
These two professions comprise approximately 40% of the licensed mental health workforce in the United States.
Services provided by licensed clinical mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are covered by all private insurers, the VA, Tricare, the Indian Health Service, and nearly all state Medicaid programs.
Both professions require the following for licensure:
completion of a master’s degree
two years or more of postgraduate supervised clinical experience
successful completion of a national professional examination
Over the next few months, NCCs and CCMHCs will note active grassroots efforts by members of the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, including NBCC. If you’d like to be part of this effort, please join the NBCC Grassroots Community at https://nbcc.org/govtaffairs/grassroots.