Medicare is the largest health care program in the country, covering more than 55 million people. Medicare currently recognizes psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses for outpatient mental health services. However, Medicare does not reimburse professional counselors for behavioral health services. Medicare is the country’s flagship health care program, and counselor inclusion is key to parity with other professions. NBCC promotes legislation making counselors Medicare eligible providers.
For more than a decade, NBCC has worked as part of a coalition made up of counselor and marriage and family therapist (MFT) organizations working together to pass legislation adding counselors and MFTs to Medicare. Like counselors, MFTs are excluded from Medicare despite meeting education and training requirements comparable to those of included professions. Only a federal law can accomplish this objective. Over 30 bills have included language adding counselors and MFTs to Medicare, and the legislation has passed both the Senate and House twice, but never concurrently.
A stand-alone bill adding counselors to Medicare was first introduced in 2001, in the 107th Congress. Since then, NBCC’s government affairs has ensured that such a bill has been introduced by at least one of the houses of Congress during every subsequent session. Both chambers of Congress have passed legislation adding Medicare recognition of counselors, but not at the same time. The Senate passed legislation in 2003 and 2005, and the House passed legislation in 2007 and 2009.
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