As the AMHCA Leadership Institute approaches, the Maryland Chapter of AMHCA wanted to share with you an article (below) that describes one of the most critical issues we face as a profession.
We must secure the ability to become MEDICARE providers to stay competitive and relevant in the behavioral healthcare world, but what is equally important is how we achieve that end. There is a persuasive constituency in our profession who sees universal CACREP accreditation as our path to securing reimbursement with federal insurance programs. While this argument may sound logical--as it would insure the national standards for practice that appeal to federal programs--what is overlooked is the potentially devastating consequences of this approach. Seventy percent of mental health counselors graduated from non-CACREP programs, which is an average that disguises the fact that in some states the number of CACREP graduates may be as low as 13%. We must insure that we achieve MEDICARE reimbursement without inserting any requirement that a mental health counselor attend a CACREP school. A CACREP restriction not only hurts our profession, it reduces the access to needed professionals at a time when our senior population is growing and their mental health needs are being insufficiently addressed.
We hope you will read, consider, and share the article with your members. It describes how the CACREP and other restrictions have opened only a narrow door to our practice in TRICARE and the Veterans Administration (VA). Our worst nightmare is that the restrictive policies of TRCARE and the VA will find their way into MEDICARE, which is an outcome we must mobilize to prevent. The article below appeared in the recent July issue of Counseling Today; and we wanted to insure every state leader had access to the article, especially new leaders who may not be familiar with the issue.
Since MEDICARE's policies influence the policies of commercial plans, whatever form the final MEDICARE reimbursement bill takes will have substantial influence on the education and requirements for practice of mental health counselors decades into the future. It is our sincere belief that every state leader must not only vigorously advocate to Congress for MEDICARE reimbursement, but insure that the final bill reflect policies that will well serve the majority of mental health counselors and their clients.