Legislation Would Increase Access to Clinical Psychologists for Americans on Medicare, Ensure They’re Able to Choose their Provider
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to mental health care 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 2023, would update the Medicare program to ensure Medicare beneficiaries can access clinical psychologists directly for mental health services, regardless of the care setting. Clinical psychologists are doctoral-level providers who play an important role delivering mental health services to the Medicare population. However, the Medicare program does not currently recognize clinical psychologists as independent care providers across all care settings.
“If you’re a family that has been impacted by the mental health crisis, you know just how hard it can be to navigate available mental health services. This can be especially difficult when it comes to our older loved ones who rely on access through Medicare, but it doesn’t have to be that way. By expanding Medicare beneficiaries' access to clinical psychologists, we take an important step in improving access to health care and mental health services that New Mexicans deserve. I’m proud to co-lead this legislation to make this much needed change,” said Heinrich.
“More Americans than ever need access to mental health care, including older Ohioans. Americans on Medicare should be able to get the care they need, with the provider of their choice,” said Brown. “Our bill gets us one step closer to closing this gap and making mental health care more available to everyone.”
“There is a growing need for mental health services among older Americans, but many Medicare beneficiaries face significant challenges accessing care due to a lack of providers,” said 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.”
“Many Rural Americans have trouble accessing the quality health services they deserve,” said 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 state, are covered. I’m proud to join my colleagues on this bipartisan effort to increase seniors’ access to essential care.”
“As a nation, we are experiencing severe levels of stress and poor mental health, and Medicare beneficiaries are no exception. Medicare beneficiaries living in rural areas have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders than beneficiaries living in urban areas, but are only half as likely to see a mental health specialist,” said Arthur C. Evans Jr., PhD, CEO of the American Psychological Association. “At the same time, we know that about one in three new nursing home residents has one of these disorders. The Increasing Mental Health Options Act would address these issues, making it easier for Medicare patients to get the behavioral health care they need, when they need it. APA applauds Senators Brown, Collins, Mullin and Heinrich for their leadership in introducing this legislation.”
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.