March 27, 2007: H.R. 1663, the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act, Introduced in U.S. House

By Whitney Meyerhoeffer posted 03-27-2007 00:00

  
Alexandria, Va., March 27, 2007 - On March 23, 2007, Representatives Pete Stark (D-CA), Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) introduced H.R. 1663, the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act of 2007. This legislation will make critical changes necessary for improving the delivery of mental health services to the nation's 39 million Medicare beneficiaries. H.R. 1663 is the third bill introduced within a week to cover mental health counselors under Medicare.

Specifically, the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act would include mental health counselors among the list of providers who can deliver mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries, provided they are legally authorized to perform the services under State law. The legislation would also require Medicare to reimburse mental health counselors at the same rates as that of clinical social workers.

Medicare currently covers the services of psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric/mental health clinical nurse specialists, but does not recognize mental health counselors as separately reimbursable mental health providers. Establishing Medicare reimbursement for the nation's licensed mental health counselors has long been a priority of the AMHCA and its Public Policy and Legislation Committee, chaired by Dan Holdinghaus, LPC, of Missouri.

The Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act significantly improves Medicare's mental health benefit. The legislation removes a financial barrier to those beneficiaries seeking mental health treatment, by reducing the co-payment for outpatient mental health services from 50 to 20 percent. Other needed provisions are also included.

On Tuesday, March 27, a hearing on H.R. 1663, the Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act and H.R. 1424, the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2007, will be held by the House Ways and Means Committee Subcommittee on Health, chaired by Rep. Stark.

Upon hearing of the bill's introduction AMHCA President Gail Mears, PsyD, LCMHC, NCC, said, "AMHCA is deeply grateful to Reps. Stark, Ramstad and Kennedy for introducing this comprehensive legislation and for their continued commitment to ensuring greater access to mental health services for our nation's seniors and disabled Medicare beneficiaries. We look forward to working with you and other mental health advocacy groups to ensure its ultimate enactment by the 110th Congress."
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