Congress Grapples With Health Funding Issues
Medicare Debate Offers Vehicle for LMHCs
Vice-President Joe Biden is leading deficit-reduction negotiations that are expected to result in legislation that would make sweeping changes in long-term spending such as Medicare, and perhaps in taxes. Such a large and ultimately bipartisan agreement offers a must-pass bill that may become a vehicle for small Medicare spending changes, including extending Medicare independent provider status to LMHCs.
1) to be connected to the office of one of your Senators;
Alternatively, find your two Senators’ name on an Internet search engine, go to their website, and use the “Contact” link, typically on their main page, to send an email urging cosponsorship of the bill. Tell your Senators that this bill will improve Medicare beneficiaries’ access to outpatient mental healthcare in a cost-effective manner, by establishing coverage of highly qualified LMHCs.
If Congress defers action on Medicare in this summer’s deficit-reduction agreement, it must still pass Medicare legislation later this year to prevent a scheduled 20 percent pay cut for participating physicians. Therefore, we expect to remain active on this issue throughout the year.
Deadline Missed for TRICARE LMHC Independent Practice Rule
The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2011, signed in January 2011, directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to adopt regulations allowing licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) to practice independently under the TRICARE program. The Act gave DoD until June 20th to issue rules implementing the requirement, but DoD has now missed the deadline, making it impossible to implement the directive. Estimates of when the rules will be released range from six to 18 months from now.
VA Is Slow to Hire LMHCs
AMHCA is hearing a few scattered reports of increased VA hiring, but progress is slow and the agency has taken little action to promote the option among its local facilities. We will continue advocating for expanded VA hiring of LMHCs within the agency. We also continue to support the VA expanding its September 2010 federal rule limiting qualified counselors to graduates of CACREP-accredited schools.
AMHCA Joins Comments on ACO Regs
AMHCA has joined with other national mental health and substance-use disorder organizations in commenting on important proposed regulations concerning the development of Accountable Care Organizations implementing the federal healthcare reform law.
* Jim Finley became AMHCA’s new director for public policy in mid-May. He brings to his new role many years of experience advocating for federal mental health coverage, including most recently representing the National Association of Social Workers.