Medicare ADVOCACY – Summer 2018
Joseph Weeks, LMHC, MaMHCA Public Policy Director, AMHCA Past-President
AMHCA is working closely on an ongoing basis to secure Medicare reimbursement for clinical mental health counselors. Congressional interest surrounds the opioid crisis and we are using that concern to amplify that clinical mental health counselors are trained to address substance abuse problems associated with older adults, and that the workforce will need to be expanded under the Medicare program to treat older adults with behavioral health conditions. One thing is for sure – they are thinking of AMHCA and the clinical mental health counseling profession significantly more than ever before!
Over the last few weeks, more than 30 Medicaid and Medicaid bills were the subject of the House Energy and Commerce Committee Health Subcommittee hearings focused on addressing the opioid crisis. AMHCA has been lobbying to have HB 3032 SB 1879 included as a component of any of the related bills.
On Monday, June 18, 2018, the American Mental Health Counselors Association organized a virtual action day to bolster Congressional support for the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 1879/HR 3032), by engaging state-level members to contact their Senators and Representatives. AMHCA state-level members targeted 18 Senators from 16 states who sit on the Senate Finance Committee, and 32 Representatives from 21 states who sit on the House Ways & Means Committee. Both committees have jurisdiction on Medicare issues. Rep. Richard Neal from MA is on the House Ways and Means Committee, and MaMHCA members in his western MA district have been asked to participate. Collective and targeted grassroots pressure to Congressional offices will amplify the message and garner greater Congressional support for this legislation.
There are four main talking points for advocates to share on social media and in their phone calls. While the issue can be very complex, the talking points are designed to be clear statements in order to allow you, your members, your colleagues and your network to feel comfortable showing your support for this legislation during your calls to Congressional offices.
► Studies show that 730 thousand Seniors on Medicare are at risk for opioid addiction.
► Unfortunately, though, there’s a shortage of mental health and substance abuse providers in the Medicare system to help these seniors at risk.
► As the baby boomer population ages, the 166,000 licensed mental health counselors across the country are specifically trained to address substance abuse.
►We ask for your support for House Bill 3032 or Senate Bill 1879 -- The Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act – that would expand the availability of cost-effective providers under Medicare to help treat these Seniors and address the opioid epidemic.
In order to maximize the campaign’s visibility on social media, we will be using the hashtag “#SeniorsNeedMHCounselors” on all Facebook and Twitter posts.
We also encourage all social media posts from AMHCA state-level members to include #SeniorsNeedMHCounselors. The Advocacy Kit can be found on the Public Policy Pages of our Website Here
We hope that with efforts like these, and collaborative projects withthe American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) HR 3032, The Seniors Mental Health Improvement Act will become law. We will have more information about more joint efforts for you soon.
►The Seniors Need Mental Health Counselors Advocacy Kit can be download from our Public Policy WebPage Here.
Federal Update Aug 4, 2017
Medicare Legislation Alert: H.R. 3032 Introduced to House of Reps
AMHCA has been continuing the effort to extend Medicare provider status to licensed Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists. The bill was recently introduced to the House of Representatives as H.R. 3032, "Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2017." For more specific information about this bill you can find details on the website of Congress here: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/3032, and also helpful information about how to participate in advocacy for this bill at AMHCA's website here: http://www.amhca.org/advocacy
There is also support in the Senate for inclusion of licensed Mental Health Counselors in Medicare. At their 2017 Annual Conference, AMHCA showed the below video of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) where she outlines her support for this cause. As she reviews in the video, Senator Stabenow plans to introduce this bill in the Senate shortly with her Republican colleague, John Barrasso of Wyoming. In the Senate the bill will be named, "The Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act." Use this link if the video below does not work on your device: https://youtu.be/h4uS9ctuQR0
On July 27th, 2017, MaMCHA Members and Leadership participated in AMHCA's Day of Advocacy at Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. Meetings were arranged with legislators, including the offices of Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman Katherine Clark, providing the opportunity to educate lawmakers about the importance of LMHCs in Massachusetts being included as Medicare providers and having the ability to bill Medicare for services provided. In the below picture, you can see MaMHCA's President and Dir. of Professional Development, Betsy Handley, Dir. of Grant Funding, Samantha Del Gizzi, President-Elect and Dir. of Web Communication, Evan Schinell, and Secretary, Keri Wagner, following their meetings in the Longworth House Office Building.
Following AMHCA's Day of Advocacy, at the AMHCA 2017 Annual Conference, AMHCA Executive Director, Joel Miller, updated the membership that 14 legislators cosponsored H.R. 3032 thanks to the efforts of all the state chapters and members! The number can only go up from there, and here in Massachusetts we need to do our best to make sure that our state is well represented in that list of cosponsors! Stay tuned to MaMHCA's Federal Advocacy page and the above resources for more updates and information as it unfolds in this legislative cycle! AMHCA members, MaMCHA, and other state chapters also post live information, resources, and events relevant to this legislative advocacy on our facebook and twitter feeds with the hashtags #HR3032 and #Medicare.