During the week of June 6, several AAMFT members visited Capitol Hill to lobby Congress to allow LMFTs to be covered by Medicare. As part of the Family TEAM, AAMFT members flew in from Louisiana, Michigan, New York, North Dakota, and Texas to lobby members of the U.S. House of Representatives who serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The visit was strategically timed as the Energy and Commerce Committee was planning to debate and amend legislation (HR 2646), the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, which makes several significant changes that impact mental health. AAMFT members urged this committee to amend HR 2646 to include MFTs and LPCs as Medicare providers.
During the effort, AAMFT members visited the offices of Rep. Fred Upton (MI), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the offices of four other members of this committee: Rep. Michael Burgess (TX), Rep. Steve Scalise (LA), Rep. Chris Collins (NY), and Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND). In addition, AAMFT members from Louisiana also visited the office of Senator Bill Cassidy. Senator Cassidy and Senator Chris Murphy (CT) are sponsoring a Senate mental health bill, S. 2680, which is similar to HR 2646.
"Accompanied by Ben Johnson, my visit to Capitol Hill to meet with senior staff from Congressman Scalise's office and Senator Cassidy's office was a meaningful experience. With input and support from the AAMFT lobbyist, I believe we made a positive impact. The staff we spoke with were engaged and interested in our perspective relative to the need for MFTs to be included in the medicare legislation. I was able to provide a historical perspective relative to the growth of AAMFT and the impact that MFTs have in the delivery of health care services. This was a very important visit as I believe it is critical for our voice to be both heard and seen." John Shalett, MSW, LCSW-BACS, LMFT-S, Lousiana
In addition to these visits, AAMFT initiated a grassroots campaign urging AAMFT members who are constituents of a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee to contact and urge their Member of Congress to support an amendment to HR 2646 that would allow MFTs to become Medicare providers. This grassroots campaign, which was initiated on June 7, resulted in at least 240 emails plus telephone calls to members of this committee.
On June 15, the House Energy and Commerce Committee did debate HR 2646, the mental health legislation. It was voted out of committee by a vote of 53 to 0. Unfortunately, the Medicare language was not added to this bill since the committee decided not to make any major changes to this legislation. However, there might be an opportunity to amend this legislation when it is sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote, which could occur as early as July. AAMFT will also continue advocating that the Senate include the MFTs in Medicare language in its mental health legislation.
These recent Hill visits and phone calls have succeeded in increasing support for MFTs in Medicare on Capitol Hill and the Family TEAM continues to advocate for MFT inclusion. AAMFT members can continue to urge Congress to support S. 1830, Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2015, and HR 2759, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. These two bills would allow Marriage and Family Therapists to be covered by Medicare. Please reach out to your Senator or Congressperson today and urge them to support MFTs in Medicare. We have prepared scripts that you can use by clicking here and you can find your Congressperson here.