Previously I have talked about how the profession of marriage and family therapy is overlooked or not accurately categorized. This is especially true when it comes to Medicare reimbursement. Of the five federally recognized mental health professions, MFTs are the only ones excluded from Medicare. AAMFT has been working diligently to change that.
In May 2015, the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over health care, launched the Chronic Care Working Group to discuss ideas that improve the way care is delivered to Medicare beneficiaries with chronic diseases. After a number of hearings the working group recently released a white paper on chronic care titled, “Bipartisan Chronic Care Working Group Policy Options Document.” The group has also asked for associations and health care organizations to comment and provide feedback on the white paper. Working with our partners at the American Counseling Association, American Mental Health Counselors Association, California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and National Board for Certified Counselors, we have submitted comments to the committee with our recommendations to finally include counselors and MFTs to be accepted as Medicare providers (see the full letter here).
It makes no sense when you talk about the mental health shortage areas in this country that the two groups who are excluded from being reimbursed by Medicare, make up over 40 percent of the nation’s mental health workforce.
The statistics in the letter are stark:
Over half of Medicare beneficiaries have one of six chronic conditions that include depression. Direct medical care cost for people with chronic conditions accounted for approximately 83% of U.S. health care dollars in 2001, a per person average that is five times higher than for those without a chronic condition.
The average Medicare beneficiary payment per year for someone with depression is $16,869, compared to $2,820 for someone without the six condition. Fifty-five present (55%) of Medicare beneficiaries with depression have multiple chronic condition (29% with two conditions, 26.1% with three or more). Medicaid expenditures show there are significant savings that may accrue from decreasing the costs of depression.
Including MFTs in Medicare is the logical next step. There is no opposition to the legislation, and it has already passed both the House and the senate, just not during the same session. While we remain optimistic that mental health legislation will move through this congress in the coming months, we continue to work to include language that will include MFTs as Medicare providers, as they should be.
We also need your help, by asking for your voice. Reach out to your member of congress today, either via email, phone call, or social media, and tell them to support MFTs in Medicare. We have prepared scripts that you can use by clicking here, but feel free to personalize them any way you want to help them stand out.