AAMFT and the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition honored key leaders involved in the passage of Medicare Part B Coverage of Marriage and Family Therapists at a special event and reception in Washington, DC on September 12.
The Mental Health Access Improvement Act, which was passed last year, will enable MFTs and MHCs to begin treating Medicare beneficiaries for their mental health conditions and bill for those services beginning January 1, 2024. This action was a major milestone for the advocacy and public policy efforts of AAMFT and our members around the country who have fought hard for inclusion in the Medicare program.
The event was held on Capitol Hill and attended by many representatives of the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition, the key alliance supporting Medicare recognition of MFTs and MHCs, to honor key legislative sponsors of our Medicare bill. AAMFT is a key participant and founding member of the coalition.
Chris Michaels, CEO of AAMFT, said at the reception, “Tonight, I am again reminded of the many therapists, counselors, Medicare enrollees, association staff members, healthcare advocates, and Members of Congress and their staffs who worked so hard for so many years in order to ensure that Seniors have access to the valuable services that counselors and therapists provide.”
At the reception, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was honored for her long commitment to securing Medicare Part B Coverage for MFTs and MHCs. Senator Stabenow was a lead sponsor of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act for several years. In accepting the award, Senator Stabenow highlighted the challenges of passing any kind of health-related legislation, especially during tough federal budget times.
She said, “Sometimes it takes a focusing event like a disaster or crisis which in this case was the Covid-19 pandemic to bring significant attention to the problem of mental health workforce shortages in Medicare.” “Fortunately, we had the solution in hand through the Mental Health Access Improvement Act that had bipartisan support,” the senator said proudly.
Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) was honored alongside Senator Stabenow at the event. Senator Barrasso was also a lead sponsor of the Mental Health Access Improvement over the last decade. He struck a similar tone as Senator Stabenow, saying “We know the public mood, comments from constituents and the like, and widespread media attention during the pandemic reinforced what we knew before the pandemic about mental health workforce shortages. The early warning signals were there before the crisis and we needed to take action.” Senator Barrasso said that significant mental health workforce shortages in Wyoming prevented people from seeking care and he is hopeful that the Mental Health Access Improvement Act will address the current situation in Wyoming.
Both Senator Barrasso and Senator Stabenow highlighted that we need to do more to improve access to mental health care for older adults. “More work needs to be done to address our workforce issues”, Stabenow said. Barrasso agreed, “We need to increase access to mental health, especially in underserved areas.”
For more information about Medicare and the resources available to prepare for its implementation, please visit the AAMFT Medicare Coverage of Marriage and Family Therapists page.