Earlier today, the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Rural Health Care Task Force, which is made up of former Members of Congress and other health policy experts, issued a report on its policy recommendations to transform rural health care. One of its recommendations is for the inclusion of marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors as Medicare providers. The report can be found here.
This report contains many solid recommendations for improving health care in rural America. This task force recommends that Congress add LMFTs and LMHCs as Medicare providers by enacting into law the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (HR 945 / S 286), legislation that AAMFT is currently supporting. The report correctly states that adding MFTs and MHCs as Medicare providers does have cost, but that cost projections do not include long-term savings to Medicare by treating Medicare beneficiaries who need the services of MFTs or MHCs.
Founded by former leaders of the US Senate, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is a distinguished think tank that is led by former Members of Congress, former senior congressional staff members, and other experts who combine ideas from both political parties to promote health, security and opportunity for Americans. The Rural Health Care Task Force was created last year by the BPC in order to research health challenges in rural America and make recommendations for consideration by Congress and other policymakers.
AAMFT has been following the progress of this task force from the beginning, as AAMFT staff attended the kick-off event for the task force, along with Hollyn Smith, an AAMFT member and Family TEAM leader who was in Washington DC to participate in the Family TEAM Capitol Hill visits last June. Hollyn Smith brought attention to the MFTs in Medicare issue during the event, and she shared her experience in an AAMFT Advocacy blog posting. After this kick-off, AAMFT wrote to the BPC staff and requested an opportunity to meet with them and discuss how adding MFTs as Medicare providers would help address the shortage of providers available to Seniors in rural locales. In July, AAMFT staff and lobbyist met with BPC staff, along with other representatives from the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, to discuss how adding MFTs and MHCs as providers to Medicare would help Rural America.
In August, the Rural Health Task Force requested comments and suggestions from interested parties on ideas to improve healthcare in rural areas. AAMFT submitted comments (view letter here: Download AAMFT ltr to BPC 2019.9.7) in September in response to this request.
AAMFT congratulates the Bipartisan Policy Center leadership and staff on its comprehensive recommendations to transform rural health care. We urge Congress to consider these recommendations.