Following is an action alert on mental health parity prepared by the Mental Health Liaison Group, a coalition of mental health organizations to which AAMFT belongs.

Mental health insurance parity legislation will be introduced in the Senate and the House soon. This message explains how to take action to get more members of Congress to co-sponsor this legislation.

Lincoln M. Stanley, M.A.
Government Affairs Manager
American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy
112 South Alfred Street
Alexandria VA 22314
Direct: 703-253-0469
Fax: 703-253-0506
Lstanley@aamft.org
web: http://www.aamft.org

Parity Alert

Action: Contact your Senators and Representative by using the Parity Hotline (1-888-parity4...1-888-727-4894). This reaches the Capitol Switchboard, which can connect you to Members of Congress.

Message:

To Senators: "I'm calling to urge the Senator to cosponsor the Domenici-Kennedy mental health parity bill. It's vital to pass this legislation to ban insurance discrimination against people with mental disorders." To Representatives: "I'm calling to urge the Representative to cosponsor the Ramstad-Kennedy mental health parity bill. It's vital to pass this legislation to ban insurance discrimination against people with mental disorders." Background: On January 30, the "Paul Wellstone Mental Health Parity Act" will be introduced by Senators Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Representatives Jim Ramstad (R-MN) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). The text of the bill will be the same as last year's broad-based parity bill (S. 543 as reported/H.R.4066 ).

All but five of the 67 Senators and 29 of the 243 Representatives who cosponsored the bill in the 107th Congress are Members of the new Congress. We hope that freshman Members will replace the cosponsors who retired. All Members should be approached and asked to cosponsor. All parity advocates will have to restate the need to pass legislation to ban insurance discrimination against people with mental disorders, and we will face renewed resistance to our efforts from insurer and employer lobbyists.

Outlook: Senator Domenici has pledged to push for passage of the parity legislation early in 2003 and has secured the support of Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), the new Majority Leader, who has placed parity on a "must pass" list of bills.

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*************************************************************** Action Alert 9/02 -- Medicare SB 1760 9/10/02 --

Act Now to Get LPC's into Senate Finance Committee Medicare Priority Lists!

Issue:

PHONE CALLS to Senate Finance Committee Members NEEDED IMMEDIATELY to show constituent support for inclusion of S. 1760's (recognition of LPCs in Medicare) in the Senate Finance Committee's Medicare Provider bill.

Background: On December 4, 2001, Senators Craig Thomas (R-WY), and Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) introduced S. 1760, the Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2001, calling for Medicare beneficiary access to Mental Health Counselor services under Medicare and its rural health clinic and hospice programs.

Members of the Senate Finance Committee are in the process of drafting a Medicare Provider bill that will increase payment rates for certain Medicare providers (physicians, hospitals and nursing homes). The House passed similar legislation back in June. Senators Thomas and Lincoln have added S. 1760 to their list of priorities for inclusion in the Senate Finance Committee's bill.

It is imperative that other members of the Finance Committee be persuaded to list S. 1760 on their own wish lists as well. The more committee members who have this issue on their priority list, the greater the likelihood the language will be included in the final package, which will likely pass the committee and Senate.

Action: Please PHONE your Senate Committee Member IMMEDIATELY to request their support for adding S. 1760 into their priority list for the committee's Medicare Provider package. Phone: The phone number for each Member is provided at the end of this Alert. When the receptionist answers, ask to speak with, and be sure to ACTUALLY SPEAK WITH, the staff person that handles Medicare health care issues.

Phone Message: As a constituent and Mental Health Counselor in your state, I urge you to add the Thomas/Lincoln bill, S. 1760, to your priority list for the Finance Committee's Medicare Provider package. This legislation will increase access to mental health services for Medicare beneficiaries by adding Mental Health Counselors to the list of eligible Medicare providers.

As baby boomers age, the need for an adequate supply of qualified Medicare providers becomes more critical. The Archives of General Psychiatry indicates that the current health care system is unprepared to meet the upcoming crisis in geriatric mental health. Mental Health Counselors are among the core mental health professionals recognized by the federal government. As such, we are relied upon to help meet the burgeoning beneficiary demand for mental health services in urban and rural areas.

While we are fulfilling this need in the private sector, the failure of Medicare to recognize LPC's leaves its beneficiaries without access to our education and training. Authorizing LPC's and LMFT's to provide services under the Medicare program will help meet the needs of this expanding population.

Please help our seniors by adding the Lincoln/Thomas bill, S. 1760, to your list of priorities for the Finance Committee's Medicare Provider Give Back package.

Thank you.

Senate Finance Committee Members

ST P Senator Phone #
AK R Murkowski, Frank (202) 224-6665
AR D Lincoln, Blanche (202) 224-4843
AZ R Kyl, Jon (202) 224-4521
FL D Graham, Bob (202) 224-3041
IA R Grassley, Charles (202) 224-3744
LA D Breaux, John (202) 224-4623
MA D Kerry, John (202) 224-2742
ME R Snowe, Olympia (202) 224-5344
MS R Lott, Trent (202) 224-6253
MT D Baucus, Max (202) 224-2651
ND D Conrad, Kent (202) 224-2043
NJ D Torricelli, Robert(202) 224-3224
NM D Bingaman, Jeff (202) 224-5521
OK R Nickles, Don (202) 224-5754
SD D Daschle, Thomas (202) 224-2321
TN R Thompson, Fred (202) 224-4944
TX R Gramm, Phil (202) 224-2934
UT R Hatch, Orrin (202) 224-5251
VT I Jeffords, James (202) 224-5141
WV D Rockefeller, John (202) 224-6472
WY R Thomas, Craig (202) 224-6441

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Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2001 (Introduced in Senate)

S 1760 IS

107th CONGRESS

1st Session

S. 1760 To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for the coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under part B of the medicare program, and for other purposes.

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

December 4, 2001 Mr. THOMAS (for himself and Mrs. LINCOLN) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance

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A BILL To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for the coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under part B of the medicare program, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the `Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2001'.

SEC. 2. COVERAGE OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST SERVICES AND MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR SERVICES UNDER PART B OF THE MEDICARE PROGRAM.

(a) COVERAGE OF SERVICES-

(1) IN GENERAL- Section 1861(s)(2) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(s)(2)), as amended by sections 102(a) and 105(a) of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 2763A-468 and 2763A-471), as enacted into law by section 1(a)(6) of Public Law 106-554, is amended--

(A) in subparagraph (U), by striking `and' after the semicolon at the end;

(B) in subparagraph (V)(iii), by inserting `and' after the semicolon at the end; and

(C) by adding at the end the following new subparagraph:

`(W) marriage and family therapist services (as defined in subsection (ww)(1)) and mental health counselor services (as defined in subsection (ww)(3));'.

(2) DEFINITIONS- Section 1861 of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x), as amended by sections 102(b) and 105(b) of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 2763A-468 and 2763A-471), as enacted into law by section 1(a)(6) of Public Law 106-554, is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:

`Marriage and Family Therapist Services; Marriage and Family Therapist; Mental Health Counselor Services; Mental Health Counselor

`(ww)(1) The term `marriage and family therapist services' means services performed by a marriage and family therapist (as defined in paragraph (2)) for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses, which the marriage and family therapist is legally authorized to perform under State law (or the State regulatory mechanism provided by State law) of the State in which such services are performed, as would otherwise be covered if furnished by a physician or as an incident to a physician's professional service, but only if no facility or other provider charges or is paid any amounts with respect to the furnishing of such services.

`(2) The term `marriage and family therapist' means an individual who--

`(A) possesses a master's or doctoral degree which qualifies for licensure or certification as a marriage and family therapist pursuant to State law;

`(B) after obtaining such degree has performed at least 2 years of clinical supervised experience in marriage and family therapy; and

`(C) in the case of an individual performing services in a State that provides for licensure or certification of marriage and family therapists, is licensed or certified as a marriage and family therapist in such State.

`(3) The term `mental health counselor services' means services performed by a mental health counselor (as defined in paragraph (2)) for the diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses which the mental health counselor is legally authorized to perform under State law (or the State regulatory mechanism provided by the State law) of the State in which such services are performed, as would otherwise be covered if furnished by a physician or as incident to a physician's professional service, but only if no facility or other provider charges or is paid any amounts with respect to the furnishing of such services.

`(4) The term `mental health counselor' means an individual who--

`(A) possesses a master's or doctor's degree in mental health counseling or a related field;

`(B) after obtaining such a degree has performed at least 2 years of supervised mental health counselor practice; and

`(C) in the case of an individual performing services in a State that provides for licensure or certification of mental health counselors or professional counselors, is licensed or certified as a mental health counselor or professional counselor in such State.'.

(3) PROVISION FOR PAYMENT UNDER PART B- Section 1832(a)(2)(B) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395k(a)(2)(B)) is amended by adding at the end the following new clause:

`(v) marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services;'.

(4) AMOUNT OF PAYMENT- Section 1833(a)(1) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395l(a)(1)), as amended by sections 105(c) and 223(c) of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 2763A-472 and 2763A-489), as enacted into law by section 1(a)(6) of Public Law 106-554, is amended--

(A) by striking `and (U)' and inserting `(U)'; and

(B) by inserting before the semicolon at the end the following: `, and (V) with respect to marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under section 1861(s)(2)(W), the amounts paid shall be 80 percent of the lesser of the actual charge for the services or 75 percent of the amount determined for payment of a psychologist under clause (L)'.

(5) EXCLUSION OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST SERVICES AND MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR SERVICES FROM SKILLED NURSING FACILITY PROSPECTIVE PAYMENT SYSTEM- Section 1888(e) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395yy(e)) is amended--

(A) in paragraph (2)(A)(i)(II), by striking `clauses (ii) and (iii)' and inserting `clauses (ii) through (iv)'; and

(B) by adding at the end of paragraph (2)(A) the following new clause:

`(iv) EXCLUSION OF CERTAIN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES- Services described in this clause are marriage and family therapist services (as defined in section 1861(ww)(1)) and mental health counselor services (as defined in section 1861(ww)(3)).'.

(6) INCLUSION OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS AND MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELORS AS PRACTITIONERS FOR ASSIGNMENT OF CLAIMS- Section 1842(b)(18)(C) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395u(b)(18)(C)), as amended by section 105(d) of the Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Benefits Improvement and Protection Act of 2000 (114 Stat. 2763A-472), as enacted into law by section 1(a)(6) of Public Law 106-554, is amended by adding at the end the following new clauses:

`(vii) A marriage and family therapist (as defined in section 1861(ww)(2)).

`(viii) A mental health counselor (as defined in section 1861(ww)(4)).'.

(b) COVERAGE OF CERTAIN MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES PROVIDED IN CERTAIN SETTINGS-

(1) RURAL HEALTH CLINICS AND FEDERALLY QUALIFIED HEALTH CENTERS- Section 1861(aa)(1)(B) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(aa)(1)(B)) is amended by inserting `, by a marriage and family therapist (as defined in subsection (ww)(2)), by a mental health counselor (as defined in subsection (ww)(4)),' after `by a clinical psychologist (as defined by the Secretary)'.

(2) HOSPICE PROGRAMS- Section 1861(dd)(2)(B)(i)(III) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(dd)(2)(B)(i)(III)) is amended by inserting `or a marriage and family therapist (as defined in subsection (ww)(2))' after `social worker'.

(c) AUTHORIZATION OF MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPISTS TO DEVELOP DISCHARGE PLANS FOR POST-HOSPITAL SERVICES- Section 1861(ee)(2)(G) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(ee)(2)(G)) is amended by inserting `marriage and family therapist (as defined in subsection (ww)(2)),' after `social worker,'.

(d) EFFECTIVE DATE- The amendments made by this section shall apply with respect to services furnished on or after January 1, 2002.