Mental Health Counselors included in New House Rural Health Care Legislation

Mental Health Counselors included in New House Rural Health Care Legislation

 

Mental Health Counselors included in New House Rural Health Care Legislation

 

The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA), the American Counseling Association’s (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 June 26, 2007, with the introduction of H.R. 2860, the Health Care Access and Rural Equity (H-CARE) Act of 2007. The bill was introduced by a bi-partisan group of House Rural Health Caucus members, led by co-chairs Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Greg Walden (R-OR). The legislation was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee and to the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The bill has 53 bipartisan cosponsors.

 

In addition to allowing LMHCs to bill Medicare, the H-CARE Act would adjust Medicare payments to rural hospitals and make a series of changes to boost funding for rural clinics, doctors and ambulances. Many of the provisions extend or alter rural health care provisions that were included in the Medicare Modernization Act passed several years ago. Although the primary focus of the bill is on rural health care, the legislation would allow mental health counselors to be reimbursed in all areas of the country.

 

The bill is similar to legislation introduced in on June 13, 2007, by Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) as S. 1605, the Craig Thomas Rural Hospital and Provider Equity (R-HOPE) Act of 2007, named in honor of the late Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY), who died on June 4, 2007.

 

Introduction of the House bill brings to five the total number of proposals under which mental health counselors would be allowed to bill Medicare. Bi-partisan legislation is also pending in the Senate (S. 921), introduced by Sens. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and the late Sen. Thomas to reimburse mental health counselors under Medicare. In addition, in March 2007, Reps. Barbara Cubin (R-WY) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) introduced a House companion bill (H.R. 1588) to S. 921.

 

Another bill is pending, H.R. 1663, “the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act,” which was introduced by Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), chair of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, which has jurisdiction over the Medicare program. This bill, also sponsored by Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) and Jim Ramstad (R-MN), would among other things, allow mental health counselors to provide mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries

 

ACTION NEEDED

 

Call your Representative and ask them to cosponsor and support H.R. 2860, the “Health Care Access and Rural Equity Act,” sponsored by Reps. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND) and Greg Walden (R-OR) and the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 1588), sponsored by Reps. Bart Gordon (D-TN) and Barbara Cubin (R-WY).

 

TARGETS

 

All members of the U.S. House of Representatives, especially members of the Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. To find out of your Representative member of the Ways and Means Committee or the Energy and Commerce Committee, visit the committee’s websites at http://waysandmeans.house.gov/ or http://energycommerce.house.gov/. If you don’t know the name of your Representative, visit the website for the U.S. House at www.house.gov. The U.S. Capitol switchboard can be reached at 202-224-3121.

 

SAMPLE MESSAGE

 

“As a constituent, I am calling to ask the Representative to cosponsor and support two bills that would allow state-licensed mental health counselors to provide mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries. H.R. 2860, the Health Care Access and Rural Equity Act, and H.R. 1588, the Seniors Mental Health Care Access Improvement Act would provide better access to mental health care for our nation’s growing number of senior citizens. Access to providers is especially difficult in rural and underserved areas, and mental health counselors are often the only mental health provider available”.

 

AMHCA and ACA will continue to meet with members of the House to increase support for this legislation. If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Beth Powell at AMHCA at 800-326-2642, ext. 105 or by e-mail at bpowell@amhca.org; Peter Atlee at ACA at 800-347-6647, ext. 242, or by e-mail at patlee@counseling.org or Kristi McCaskill at NBCC at 336) 547-0607 ext. 3109 or by e-mail at mccaskill@nbcc.org.

 

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