Article Published: 9/20/2023
The Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition (MMHWC) is a group of national and state organizations representing hundreds of thousands of mental health, marriage and family, and addictions treatment providers, clients, and other partners committed to making available mental and behavioral health care for Medicare recipients.
NBCC is proud to be one of the 16 members of this coalition and a sponsor of the MMHWC reception that took place on Sept. 12, 2023.
The reception honored four of our mental and behavioral health champions from the Senate and House of Representatives: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA-04), and Former Rep. Mike Katko (R-NY-24). Stabenow and Barrasso were able to attend the reception to accept their awards and make remarks.
Stabenow was honored for her long commitment in securing Medicare Part B coverage for counselors and marriage and family therapists as a lead sponsor of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act for several years. In accepting her award, she highlighted the challenges of passing any kind of health-related legislation, especially during tough times for the federal budget.
“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,” said Stabenow. “Fortunately, we had the solution in hand through the Mental Health Access Improvement Act that had bipartisan support.”
Barrasso was honored at the event as a lead sponsor of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act over the last decade.
“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,” said Barrasso. “The early warning signals were there before the crisis, and we needed to take action.” Barrasso explained 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 and for rural areas around the country.
Both Barrasso and Stabenow observed that despite the overwhelming media attention on partisan fights, Congress passes many bipartisan bills like the Mental Health Access Improvement Act that gain little media attention.
Both senators highlighted the 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,” said Stabenow. Barrasso agreed: “We need to increase access to mental health, especially in underserved areas.”
This celebration recognized the monumental decision to include counselors as Medicare providers. Together, we have accomplished the incredible task of expanding access to necessary mental health services for older adults.
Counselors can begin submitting their enrollment applications to become Medicare providers after the Federal Register publishes the Calendar Year (CY) 2024 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) final rule, which is expected around Nov. 1, 2023. The new benefits will begin January 1, 2024.
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