Follows Announcement of Additional 1900 Mental Health Staff Nationwide WASHINGTON— The Department of Veterans Affairs has expanded its mental health services to include professionals from two additional health care field ...
Category: Government Relations
Mental Health Counselors included in New House Rural Health Care Legislation
The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American Counseling Associations (ACA) and the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC) efforts to pass Medicare reimbursement for state-licensed mental health counselors took another step further on
As many of you know, prior to the adjournment of the 109th Congress in December 2006, an agreement was reached on critical veterans’ legislation. The $3.2 billion Veterans Benefits, Health Care and Information ...
Congress Passes Bill to Include Counselors in VA Programs
Inclusion of mental health counselors as providers at the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA), a top policy goal for the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA), passed both the U.S. House and Senate during the waning hours of the 109th Congress. The provision, included in S. 3421, the Veterans Benefits, Healthcare, and Information Act, opens up the VA health care system to mental health counselors, increasing access to care for veterans. S. 3421 now goes to President Bush to be signed into law.
The bill, which passed the House by voice vote and the Senate under unanimous consent, includes the AMHCA and ACA provision to add mental health counselors to the list of appointed positions within the Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA). The provision would also delineate the qualifications mental health counselors would need to be appointed to a position in the VHA.
On Thursday, May 11, the House of Representatives passed the FY 2007 National Defense Authorization Act by a vote of 390-39. Included in the bill, which authorizes spending for all Defense-related programs, is a provision sponsored by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC) granting independent practice authority to licensed mental health counselors practicing under TRICARE. Under current TRICARE rules, licensed mental health counselors are the only mental health professionals required to have physician referral and supervision.
The Senate has not considered their version of the defense authorization bill, which does not yet include a counselor practice authority provision. The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) are working together to find a sponsor to introduce an amendment during Senate consideration of the bill. The Senate is expected to consider their version of a defense bill following the Memorial Day recess. We will send you additional information about what grassroots actions will be necessary for passage of an amendment.
The U.S. Senate, on May 11th, blocked legislation (S 1955) that would have allowed small businesses to join together and create association health plans, falling five votes short of the 60 votes needed to limit debate on the measure.
The bill was defeated in a 55-43 vote, mostly along party lines. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP), would allow small businesses and trade associations to form association health plans across state lines. Under the bill, insurers would be permitted to sell plans to businesses and individuals that do not meet current state benefits requirements. However, they then also would have to offer a plan with benefits provided under a state employees' plan in one of the five most heavily populated states -- California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. In addition, the bill would preempt state laws that limit how much insurers can vary premiums from one small business to another.
Ask Your Representative to Cosponsor H.R. 5324
After lobbying by the American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association (ACA), and hearing from counselors in Wyoming, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-WY), a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has introduced legislation (H.R. 5324) that would include licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists among the list of providers who can deliver services to Medicare beneficiaries, provided they are legally authorized to perform those services under their state’s licensure law.
AMHCA and ACA worked tirelessly to find a Republican member of the House of Representatives who is on one of the two key committees that has jurisdiction over the legislation since Republicans are the majority party and control the flow of legislation. Now, that we have achieved this important goal, it is even more crucial for our members to contact their U.S. Representative and request cosponsorship of the bill. A long list of bipartisan cosponsors will help provide the support needed to include the legislation when a separate bill regarding Medicare is working its way through the legislative process.