Bipartisan Bill Would Increase Access to Clinical Psychologists for Older Americans, Ensure Medicare Beneficiaries Have Access to their Choice of Provider
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help increase access to mental health services for older Americans.
The Increasing Mental Health Options Act of 2022 would update the Medicare program to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can access clinical psychologists directly for mental health services, regardless of the setting of care. Clinical psychologists are doctoral-level providers who play an important role in delivering mental health services to the Medicare population. However, the Medicare program does not currently recognize clinical psychologists as independent care providers across all settings of care.
“There is a growing need for mental health services among older Americans, but many Medicare beneficiaries face significant challenges accessing this care due to a lack of providers,” said Sen. Collins. “By better aligning Medicare’s policies with other major insurers, removing unnecessary barriers that can delay care, and incentivizing psychologists to see Medicare patients in rural and underserved areas, our bipartisan bill will improve seniors’ access to mental health treatment and help strengthen the overall wellbeing of older adults.”
“Access to mental health care is a growing need in America, and we should be prioritizing ways to ensure older Americans have access to the providers that best meet their needs,” said Sen. Brown. “Our bill gets us one step closer to meeting this gap in care.”
“Medicare requires patients in some settings to first obtain a physician’s approval before seeing a psychologist, creating an administrative barrier for necessary mental health care,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “For decades, the Medicare statute has allowed clinical psychologists to practice independently most everywhere else, and the statute should be modernized to allow independent practice across the board, as is authorized under all state licensure laws. We’re extremely grateful to Senators Brown and Collins, and to Representatives Chu, Smith, Schakowsky and Mullin for their leadership in removing an unnecessary barrier to prompt mental health treatment for Medicare patients.”
Approximately one quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries have a mental illness, with the COVID-19 pandemic significantly increasing the level of psychological distress across all Americans. Serious mental illnesses, such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, are also prevalent among those Americans who are under the age of 65 and eligible for Medicare.
Companion legislation was introduced in the House by U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA-24), Jason Smith (R-MO-08), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2)