AMHCA Seeks Advancement for the Profession on Several Fronts
AHMCA this month is pressing Congress on a host of issues on behalf of the profession. Along with our coalition partners, we recently sat down with several friendly congressional offices to seek stepped-up pressure on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to hire more mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists.
The House is currently considering annual funding legislation providing $6,453,027,000 for VA mental health programs, a 4.3 percent increase over current-year levels. Congressional committees have come down hard on the agency in recent weeks for its continuing delays in making mental health services available to veterans and called again for the VA to redouble its efforts to provide timely access.
AMHCA is pleased that the pending VA funding bill calls for the agency to conduct a staffing analysis to determine whether mental health vacancies represent a systemic problem, and if so, to develop an action plan to correct the impediments.
Congress remains deadlocked on Medicare revisions as the congressional elections cycle becomes more active. Election-year politics on Medicare are considered combustible for congressional and presidential candidates, meaning Congress for now is unwilling to consider changes.
Possible Repeal of Healthcare Reform?
Congressional Republicans are divided over what to propose if the Supreme Court strikes down in June all or part of the president’s healthcare overhaul. Some Republicans feel they need to offer credible alternatives to present to their constituents if the court strikes down the law and would like to restore some popular provisions. Others believe only total repeal is acceptable.
Physician groups say such provisions are needed to transition Medicare’s current payment formula to a modern system that rewards efficient, high-quality care. Definitely in the conversation will be what to do about mental-health parity rules for all beneficiaries.
We are hopeful that long-delayed provider credentialing of clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs) for independent practice under TRICARE will begin very soon. The timetable for TRICARE Management implementation of its December 2011 rule for independent practice by CMHCs is coming into focus.