As the US government works feverishly to pass a $1.7 trillion spending bill before current funding runs out, MFTs and Counselors appear poised for a major policy victory. If the bill passes, the services of MFTs and Counselors would become eligible for Medicare reimbursement as of January 1, 2024. [Update: The bill passed, and was signed by President Biden.]
ACA, AAMFT, and CAMFT continue to work with and others in Washington to get LPCs and LMFTs included as eligible providers in Medicare. Bills pending before both the House and Senate would do it. And that change would be beneficial for consumers and taxpayers alike.
Donald Trump was elected President of the United States yesterday in what has been labeled a stunning upset. While much of the broader social discussion today will focus on how Trump’s victory happened, as psychotherapists we now must consider how President Trump will impact our profession.
Mental health is not mentioned in Trump’s health care reform paper or on the health care page of his campaign web site. So for this post, we look to his other stated policy goals to see how mental health care would be impacted.
At this point, it’s too early to know exactly what a final health care reform bill will look like — there are still several different proposals coming out of several different Congressional committees. However the final legislative package winds up looking, if health care reform is passed, most MFTs are likely to benefit. The only questions are “How?” and “How much?” Individual MFTs can gave tremendous impact on the answers to those questions.
Individual health insurance coverage. Most MFTs work either in private practices and/or in small businesses (including nonprofit organizations) that may or may not offer health benefits. For these therapists, insurance is often both expensive (see Kaiser Family Foundation chart, left) and difficult to come by. AAMFT does its part in helping members locate insurance options, but can’t do much when it comes to controlling costs. Health care reform is almost certain to help this large proportion of MFTs by making health care more affordable and removing barriers to coverage (e.g. pre-existing medical conditions).
Medicare reimbursement. Multiple House and Senate bills this year include provisions that would make MFTs eligible for reimbursement through Medicare. These bills may eventually be absorbed into the large-scale reform bills — indeed, one such bill (HR3200) already includes specific provisions for bringing MFTs and LPCs into Medicare — and if so, it will be vital that the provisions for including MFTs are kept. However, Medicare inclusion is currently less certain. AAMFT, AMHCA, ACA, and CAMFT are working together to counter the inaccurate claims of opponents, and are likely to need your help in the coming weeks to preserve this important part of health care reform. Stay tuned. The profession has made great strides in the past several years toward Medicare reimbursement, and with luck, this will be the year when our work pays off.
Will this be the year MFTs finally are included in Medicare? There are promising signs.
First, there is already momentum for adding MFTs to the list of accepted providers. MFTs have been on three bills, one in each of the past three Congresses, that successfully passed out of one legislative house. (Twice we’ve made it out of the House of Representatives, once out of the Senate.) So far, no bill to include MFTs in Medicare has survived both houses and made it to the President’s desk. But with a new President, a new Congress, and a new public focus on health care reform, there looks to be a good window of opportunity.
There are two bills (HR1693 in the House, and its companion Senate bill, S671) already introduced in the current Congress that would bring MFTs into Medicare. Both are bipartisan efforts that have very low initial costs and are likely to lead to long-term savings as Medicare patients would be able to more easily receive early treatment for mental health disorders. Both have strong and growing support from key committee members in both houses.
In the larger conversation about health care reform, there is also good reason to be optimistic for the MFT profession. The body of knowledge supporting the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of our work continues to grow at a rapid pace, and with licensure now in 48 states and DC, the case for inclusion is stronger than ever.
I’ll keep you posted as the bills move forward. Stay tuned to aamft.org for updates and calls-to-action, when contacts with specific legislators can help turn their votes.