Counselors, marriage and family therapists, and others across the country joined together and contacted their representatives on Sept. 14 to advocate for Medicare recognition during Virtual Action Day, a nationwide campaign to generate support for passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 432/S. 828). In order to enact new legislation, every voice counts, and we are overjoyed that so many supporters took action and expressed their views regarding this important bill.
Currently the services of licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists are covered by virtually all health plans, including Tricare, the Veterans Administration, Medicaid, and many employer plans. The proposed bill would ensure that the services of these professionals are also covered by Medicare and would expand access to mental health services for those in need.
More than 500 messages were Tweeted and posted on Facebook, many calls were made, and 877 emails were sent by members of NBCC’s Grassroots Network to help the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition spread the word about the crucial and ever-growing need to help seniors, clients with disabilities, and other beneficiaries of Medicare gain access to mental health and addiction services.
The need for mental health services has compounded since the onset of COVID-19, with many older adults experiencing depression, anxiety, and feeling isolated and alone. According to a 2020 study by the Centers for Disease Control, the pandemic has substantially affected the overall physical, social, mental, and emotional well-being of seniors.
As part of the NBCC Creed, we believe that everyone should have access to high-quality counseling by competent counselors, and that access leads to equity. Passage of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 432/S. 828) would allow licensed mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to bill Medicare for their services, and in turn help many more individuals in need of mental health care who otherwise may not be able to afford it by expanding their access to care.
If you missed Virtual Action Day, there is still time to show your support on social media and contact members of Congress to voice your opinion about the importance of H.R. 432/S. 828. For more information about the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, visit our Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition page. Helpful ideas about effective ways to make an impact as an advocate can be found in our Grassroots Action Center, where we have simplified the process by providing examples of customizable content, contact information for congressional leaders, tips on writing op-ed pieces, and more.
Counselors everywhere are trained, prepared, and willing to provide their services to underserved and never-served populations, and mental health equity has long been one of NBCC's top legislative priorities. With your support, together we can make our voices heard and show Congress precisely why #MedicareMentalHealth and #SeniorsMentalHealth are more than necessary; they are essential elements of a successful society.