Legislation Would Increase Access to Clinical Psychologists for Older Americans, Ensure Medicare Beneficiaries Have Access to their Choice of Provider
WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 16, 2022 – U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA-24), Jason Smith (R-MO-08), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL-9), and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK-2) introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to help increase access to mental healthcare services for older Americans by ensuring Medicare beneficiaries have access to clinical psychologists across all settings of care.
This legislation, 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.
“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.”
“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.”
“Mental health care is as essential as physical health care, and yet despite the nationwide shortage of mental health providers, psychologists are limited in their ability to operate at their full scope of practice in the Medicare program” said Rep. Chu. “As a psychologist myself, I know the benefit that psychologists can bring to their patients, which is why I am proud that our bill will allow these qualified providers to provide top-notch care to Medicare beneficiaries in various settings, from skilled nursing facilities to inpatient psychiatric facilities. I’m grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues and hope to see this bill’s consideration in the next congress.”
“Ensuring access to mental health services in places like southern Missouri and other rural areas is so important for the people I represent,” said Rep. Smith. “By allowing clinical psychologists to render services to Medicare recipients, we will ensure hardworking seniors have critical mental health resources available to them and bring care closer to home for so many folks I represent.”
“The number of Americans diagnosed with mental health issues has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mental health crisis has especially impacted older Americans, who continue to bear the brunt of the consequences of the pandemic,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Unfortunately, current laws present a roadblock for seniors and people with disabilities to get the mental health care they need and deserve under Medicare. Our bipartisan bill will remove those barriers and make it easier for Medicare beneficiaries to access much-needed mental health care.”
“Many Rural Americans have trouble accessing the quality health services they deserve,” said Rep. Mullin. “This bill will remove unnecessary barriers that have kept psychologists, who are well-equipped to provide mental health care, from delivering care to seniors under Medicare. It will also modernize Medicare statutes to ensure independent practices, like the ones in my district, are covered. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to increase seniors’ access to essential 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 bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, are also prevalent among those Americans who are under the age of 65 and eligible for Medicare.