Medicare Legislation Action Alert
New bills have been introduced in the House and Senate to extend Medicare provider status to mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists. On July 22, 2015 Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) introduced the “Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act” (S. 1830) and on June 12, 2015 Representatives Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the House version as (HR. 2759). The identical bills would allow Medicare beneficiaries access to mental health counselor services and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) through Medicare. By providing these mental health professionals the opportunity to participate in the Medicare program, the bills expand the number of mental health providers available to beneficiaries.
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AMHCA, ACES and NBCC Jointly Endorse Plan for Licensure Portability
The AMHCA-ACES-NBCC portability plan is built on sound principles of quality assurance and national standards. The plan will promote acceptance of a license from another state when the individual holds a degree from a clinically focused counselor preparation program accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling & Related Educational Programs (CACREP), holds certification as a National Certified Counselor, or meets standards adopted by the state board of counseling.
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TRICARE Provider Status Legislation
In May the American Counseling Association took credit for attaching bill language to the House version of Department of Defense funding legislation (HR.1735) that is opposed by AMHCA because it would effectively gut current TCMHC rules. The TCMHC rule change is now mired in the much broader funding logjam over federal spending. If Congress decides to pass a short-term CR to buy members more time to deal with federal spending questions, it will effectively halt any advance of the ACA’s provision. Most Members of Congress think they’re now heading toward a CR, which would keep federal funding on autopilot from this fiscal year into next, allowing no policy or spending changes, and maintaining the current TRICARE rule for TCMHCs.

Mental Health Reform Bills Take Shape
After several years of fits and starts, momentum is building in Congress to pass a mental health reform bill that responds to mass gun violence without addressing any new restrictions on access to firearms. This week Senate HELP Committee members Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced a new bill, see summary, making mental-health system reforms. The bill offers a legislative response to House, Rep. Tim Murphy’s (R-PA) long running, but unsteady, push for action on mental health reform. Increased attention on mass gun violence also appears to have spurred reintroduction in June of Representative Tim Murphy’s bill, now H.R. 2646. Like last year’s, it contains a number of controversial provisions including an “emphasis on institutional and coercive approaches,” see Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, while excluding provisions to expand voluntary community-based services such as AMHCA’s Medicare provider status amendment for CMHCs.

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