On June 30, the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health held a legislative hearing to consider 22 bills currently before them. The hearing, titled “High Anxiety and Stress: Legislation to Improve Mental Health During Crisis,” centered on bipartisan bills that would increase access to mental health services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The witnesses at the hearing, who were there to serve as subject matter experts for the committee members, included Patrick Kennedy, Former Congressman and Founder of the Kennedy Forum; Arthur Evans, CEO of the American Psychological Association; Jeffrey Geller, President of the American Psychiatric Association; and Arriana Gross, National Youth Advisory Board Member of the SAVE Promise Club.
Among the 22 bills considered during the hearing was H.R. 945, the Mental Health Access Improvement Act, which would allow mental health counselors to be reimbursed by Medicare for counseling services. This is a major step toward passage in the House, as generally bills must be considered in a hearing before their committee of jurisdiction before they can move to a full House vote. This is also the first time a committee in either the House or the Senate has held a hearing focused largely on mental health in several years.
The next step in this process is to have the bill included in a formal markup before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Following a markup, the Committee would then vote on whether to send the legislation to the full House for a vote.