This week, Congress is drafting a large end of year package that will fund the federal government through September 2023, as well as make some helpful changes to federal law. MFT advocates are pushing Congress to include in this package the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/H.R. 432), legislation that would allow MFTs and MHCs to serve as Medicare-eligible providers. We need this package to include the MFTs in Medicare legislation. Please contact your Members of Congress today to advocate for MFTs as Medicare providers.
As of December 15, high-level negotiations are taking place on Capitol Hill as to how to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year 2023. These negotiations will wrap up soon. If Congress decides to pass an end of year package, also known as an Omnibus funding bill, as opposed to a Continuing Resolution which simply continues funding levels from already passed bills, Congress COULD include other policy initiatives, such as the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. For this reason, we urge you to contact your Senators and Representative in Congress NOW and urge them to include MFTs in Medicare as part of the end of the year funding legislation.
Background and Progress
Introduced in 2021 as H.R. 432 by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Rep. John Katko (R-NY) and as S. 828 by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Mental Health Access Improvement Act is a bill that would finally allow both Marriage and Family Therapists and Mental Health Counselors to serve as independent Medicare Part B practitioners. This legislation would allow MFTs and MHCs to bill Medicare for providing covered mental health and substance use services to older adults and other Medicare beneficiaries.
Since this legislation was introduced in early 2021, AAMFT and its allies in the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, who also advocate for passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, have made substantial progress in advancing this legislation so that it could be eligible for inclusion in the end of year package:
Support in the House of Representatives: Currently, 97 Members in the House of Representatives are cosponsoring H.R. 432, with strong bipartisan support. Earlier this year, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act was passed by a key House committee with jurisdiction over Medicare. On September 21, the House Ways and Means Committee met to discuss and vote to move several bills to the full House of Representatives, a process known as a committee markup. At this markup, the Ways and Means committee unanimously voted to move to the full House for consideration the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 432). This vote was an important step in the process of moving this legislation forward. Legislation that has been approved by a committee is more likely to be considered in a larger package than bills that have not been considered by a committee.
Support in the Senate: In the Senate, 34 Senators are cosponsoring S. 828, which is a record amount of support for any MFTs and MHCs in Medicare legislation in the Senate. In September, the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicare in the Senate, released a discussion draft of legislation to address mental health workforce needs and challenges. This draft includes legislation to add MFTs and MHCs as Medicare providers (S. 828), along with many other provisions to expand the behavioral health workforce. The release of this draft represents the most important action by the Senate in twelve years pertaining to adding MFTs and MHCs as Medicare providers. Please see this AAMFT Blog for additional information on the committee actions from September.
Support from AAMFT Members and Allies: MFTs, as well as MHCs, other mental health providers, and allies, have been active and engaged in reaching out to their Members of Congress to advocate for the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Thousands of email messages in support of this legislation have been sent by MFTs and MHCs to Congress. AAMFT members and other mental health providers have met with the offices of Members of Congress to advocate for this issue as well as AAMFT and its allies in the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition.
In addition, inclusion of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act in the end of year package is supported by a wide number of organizations besides associations representing MFTs and MHCs. Congress has received letters of support for including this legislation in the end of year package from groups as diverse as the Mental Health Liaison Group and the American Hospital Association.
What You Can Do
Negotiations are occurring now to determine which bills make it into the omnibus, and it is unknown which bills would be included. These negotiations will end very soon, and a vote on the end of year package will occur next week. This is the best opportunity for passage of the MFTs in Medicare legislation in over twelve years. Therefore, it is imperative to contact your Members of Congress NOW to let them know that you want Congress to include the Mental Health Access Improvement Act in the end of year package.
Finally, you can advocate for MFTs in Medicare by sending a message to your Members of Congress through AAMFT’s grassroots advocacy platform. If you have friends, family or colleagues who are also constituents of your Member of Congress, they can use this grassroots advocacy platform to send a message advocating for MFTs in Medicare. If you wish to send a more personalized message to your Members of Congress, use this link to find your Members of Congress and click on their profiles to find their D.C. office contact information.
Thank you in advance for advocating for MFTs as Medicare providers. Please contact us at FamilyTEAM@aamft.org if you have any questions.