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Medicare and Professional Counselors
Medicare is the largest health care program in the country, covering more than 40 million people. However, Medicare does not reimburse professional counselors for outpatient behavioral health services. Medicare currently recognizes psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses for outpatient mental health services. Medicare is the country’s flagship health care program, and counselor inclusion is key to parity with other professions. The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) will continue to pursue passage of legislation until counselors are fully integrated into the program.
For more than a decade, NBCC has worked with a coalition of counseling and marriage and family therapy organizations to open Medicare to counselors. Only a federal law can accomplish this. Nearly 30 bills have included language adding counselors and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) to Medicare, and the legislation has passed both the Senate and House twice, but never concurrently.
Learn more about the history of NBCC’s efforts for Medicare counselor recognition.
In July 2014, Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced H.R. 5294. The bill is sponsored by the House Tri-Caucus and is designed to address health disparities for minority populations. The bill includes counselor Medicare language.
In May 2014, Sens. Franken (D-MN), Roberts (R-KS), Harkin (D-IA) and Barrasso (R-WY) introduced the Craig Thomas Rural Hospital and Provider Equity Act (S. 2359), which contains our Medicare provision. The bill is a compilation of proposals designed to increase access to health care in rural areas that is sponsored by the Senate Rural Health Care Caucus.
Additionally, our language was included in the Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act of 2014 (H.R. 4574), introduced by Rep. Barber (D-AZ). H.R. 4574 is the mental health reform bill supported by the Democratic leadership.