Bill will expand access to mental health services

12 Feb 2019 9:24 AM | Jim Macedone (Administrator)

For Immediate Release
Jan. 31, 2019

Barrasso Press Office (Barrasso) – (202) 224-6441
Miranda Margowsky (Stabenow) – (202) 224-1437

Barrasso, Stabenow Introduce Bipartisan Mental Health Access Improvement Act

Bill will expand access to mental health services for our nation’s seniors.

WASHINGTON, DC –Today, U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reintroduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 286). The bill would allow America’s seniors access to marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) through Medicare. By providing these mental health professionals the opportunity to participate in the Medicare program, this bill expands the number of mental health providers available to our nation’s seniors.  

“As a doctor, improving access to mental health care is an important personal priority of mine. I am proud to once again join with Senator Stabenow to introduce the Mental Health Access Improvement Act,” said Barrasso. “This bipartisan legislation expands the number of mental health providers working in the Medicare program. This will make it easier for our nation’s seniors, especially those living in rural areas, to get the care they need closer to home.”

“One in five Americans struggle with some kind of mental illness and older Americans are no exception,” said Stabenow. “Our bill makes it easier for seniors to have access to the mental health care they need.”

U.S. Representatives Mike Thompson (D-CA-05) and John Katko (R-NY-24) introduced the companion bill to S. 286 in the House of Representatives. 

In the United States alone, 20 percent of individuals ages 55 and older experience some type of mental health concern. According to the Health Resources and Services Administration, there are more than 5,000 Mental Health Professionals Shortage Areas in the United States, and half of all counties in the U.S. have no practicing psychiatrists or psychologists. Seniors in rural communities are the most adversely affected by these shortage areas. 

The Mental Health Access Improvement Act lifts restrictions on certain mental health professionals that bar them from billing Medicare. This will increase access to existing mental health professionals and allow them to treat America’s seniors.

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