The American Mental Health Counselors Association (AMHCA) and the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) effort to gain Medicare reimbursement for state-licensed mental health counselors took one step further on June 13, 2006, with the introduction of S. 3500, the Rural Hospital and Provider Equity (R-HoPE) Act of 2006.

 


S. 3500 was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senate Rural Health Caucus members, of which Thomas and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-SD) serve as co-chairs. The legislation was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. The R-HoPE Act brings to five the total number of proposals under which mental health counselors could bill Medicare.

 

In addition to S. 3500, bipartisan legislation is pending in the Senate (S. 784), also introduced by Sen. Thomas and his Finance Committee colleague, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), to reimburse mental health counselors under Medicare. In addition, in May 2006, Rep. Barbara Cubin introduced a House companion bill (H.R. 5324) to S. 784. The Medicare Mental Health Modernization Act (H.R. 1946)/(S. 927) that would, among other things, allow mental health counselors to provide mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries is also pending.

 

In addition to allowing LMHCs to bill Medicare, S. 3500 would adjust Medicare payments to rural hospitals and make a series of changes to boost funding for rural clinics, doctors and ambulances. Many of the provisions extend or alter rural health care provisions that were included in the Medicare Modernization Act passed three years ago.

 

Although the legislation’s primary focus is on rural health care, S. 3500 would allow mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to be reimbursed in all areas of the country.

 

ACTION NEEDED

 

Call your Senators and ask them to cosponsor and support both S. 3500, the Rural Hospital and Provider Equity Act, sponsored by Sens. Craig Thomas (R-WY) and Kent Conrad (D-SD) and the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 784).

 

TARGETS

 

Members of the U.S. Senate, especially members of the Finance Committee. To find out of your Senator is a member of the Finance committee, visit the committee website at http://finance.senate.gov/. If you don’t know the name of your Senators, visit the website for the U.S. Senate at www.senate.gov. The U.S. Capitol switchboard can be reached at 202-224-3121.

 

SAMPLE MESSAGE

 

“As a constituent, I am calling to ask the Senator to cosponsor and support two bills that would allow state-licensed mental health counselors to provide mental health services to Medicare beneficiaries. S. 3500, the Rural Hospital and Provider Equity Act, and S. 784, the Seniors Mental Health Care Access Improvement Act would provide better access to mental health care for our nation’s growing number of senior citizens. Access to providers is especially difficult in rural and underserved areas, and mental health counselors are often the only mental health provider available”.

 

AMHCA and ACA will continue to meet with members of the Senate to increase support for this legislation.  If you have any questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Beth Powell at AMHCA at 800-326-2642, ext. 105 or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Brian Altman at ACA can be reached at 800-347-6647, ext. 242, or by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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