AMHCA Pushes for LMHC Medicare Reimbursement in Senate Health Bill
Following the Labor Day holiday, legislators from across the country returned to their Washington, D.C. congressional offices. Numerous legislators came back wearied from the highly charged town hall meetings on health care reform many held over the course of the five week recess. During the recess, six legislators on the Senate Finance Committee, referred to as the "Gang of Six," remained hidden away from the press trying to formulate a health care bill reform package that would cost under $1 trillion over 10 years.
On Wednesday, September 16, 2009, Senator Max Baucus, Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee—the only congressional committee with subject matter jurisdiction that had not publicly put forth a reform package bill draft—unveiled his reform bill, known as America’s Health Future Act of 2009. With costs totaling less than $900 billion, the Senate Finance bill proposed by Baucus, with much input from the "Gang of Six" (Senators Baucus, Grassley, Enzi, Snowe, Conrad, and Bingaman), currently excludes many of the Medicare and Medicaid benefits in the House bill. It also excludes the public insurance plan contained within the House Tri-Committee and Senate HELP Committee bill drafts.
Numerous provisions of the House Tri-Committee and Senate HELP Committee bill drafts that promote mental health are not contained within Baucus's Finance Committee Chairman's Mark. Among the provisions not included in the Baucus bill is Medicare reimbursement of licensed mental health counselors and licensed marriage and family therapists. Senator Blanche Lincoln, sponsor of S.671, the Medicare reimbursement counselor and marriage and family therapist bill, is offering S. 671 as an amendment, known as Finance Amendment D3, during the Senate Finance Committee markup of America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009. Additionally, strong mental health parity provisions mirroring the language of the Wellstone-Domenici Act, and in some cases enhancing it, have found their way into the House bill, H.R. 3200, and the HELP bill draft but not into Baucus’s Senate Finance bill draft.
Beginning in late September, the Senate Finance Committee will have a public markup of America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009 in which several hundred amendments are expected to be offered.
The inclusion of S. 671 in more than one bill draft maximizes the likelihood that S. 671 can survive a heated conference session between the House and Senate and thus be included in the one omnibus health reform bill sent to President Obama for a signature. Ask your U.S. Senator to support Medicare reimbursement of LMHCs by voting aye to Senator Lincoln’s D3 amendment to America’s Healthy Future Act of 2009.
- AMHCA encourages its members to write their U.S. Senators expressing their support for Medicare reimbursement of counselors.
- AMHCA asks that members from states with U.S. Senators serving on the Senate Finance Committee contact the Senator’s District Office staff and have a meeting regarding the need to amend the Baucus bill to include S. 671.
Thank you for your advocacy efforts on behalf of the LMHC/LPC profession!
- To find contact information for your U.S. Senators, go to www.senate.gov and click on your state.
- Click here for a list of members of the Senate Finance Committee.
Contact Julie A. Clements, J.D., AMHCA Director of Legislative Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have further inquiries.