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Bipartisan Bill Will Improve Medicare Mental Health Access

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Washington, February 4, 2019 | comments

Rep. Judy Chu (CA-27) introduced the Medicare Mental Health Act to update Medicare requirements and make it easier for seniors to access quality mental health care. Under current Medicare requirements, mental health services provided by clinical psychologists must be prescribed and monitored by a physician. This stands in contrast to numerous states in which clinical psychologists are able to provide treatment independently with no physician supervision. By failing to taking into account the rigorous training and licensing for clinical psychologists, the requirement creates an unnecessary barrier to mental health access for seniors – particularly in rural and underserved areas. Rep. Chu, who is one of only two members of Congress with a doctorate in psychology, was joined by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Jason Smith (MO-8), and Markwayne Mullin (OK-2). Reps. Chu, Schakowsky, and Mullin have issued the following statements:  

“Mental health care is as essential as physical health care, yet psychologists are the only doctoral-level providers not counted as a physician by Medicare,” said Rep. Chu. “By requiring psychologists to be monitored by a physician, Medicare is actually working against the health care needs of Americans by making it harder to access necessary care. As a trained clinical psychologist myself, I know the kind of serious study and licensing they must undergo. This requirement is clearly antiquated and should be updated. I’m grateful for the bipartisan support of my colleagues and hope that we can pass this bill quickly.”

“Current law creates road blocks for seniors and persons with disabilities to get the behavioral health care that they need,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “This is a sensible bill to expand access for millions of people to get the full-person care they need.”

“Americans in rural areas often struggle to access the quality health services necessary to maintain good health,” said Rep. Mullin. “Unnecessary barriers have kept psychologists, who are well-equipped to provide mental health care, from delivering care to seniors under Medicare. I’m proud to work with my colleagues on a bipartisan solution to allow seniors to access essential care—particularly in rural areas.”

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