November 07, 2019

Gillibrand, Senate Colleagues Announce Bipartisan Legislation To Help Expand Access To Mental Health Services For Older Adults And People With Disabilities

The Medicare Mental Health Access Act Would Reform Medicare Requirements to Allow Clinical Psychologists to Provide Treatment to More Patients

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), along with Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), today announced the bipartisan Medicare Mental Health Access Act, legislation that would help expand access to mental health services to older adults and people with disabilities. Currently under Medicare requirements, mental health services provided by clinical psychologists, who are trained and licensed to practice independently in all U.S. states and jurisdictions, require additional monitoring and sign-off by a physician. This requirement creates a barrier for clinical psychologists to provide critical mental health treatments for seniors and people with disabilities. The Medicare Mental Health Access Act would change this requirement by adding clinical psychologists to the list of providers in Medicare’s definition of a “physician.”

“Far too many Americans don’t have access to the mental health services they need, and Congress should be doing more to address this problem,” said Senator Gillibrand. “That’s why I’m proud to announce the bipartisan Medicare Mental Health Access Act. This legislation would allow clinical psychologists to provide more treatment options for Medicare patients, helping to expand access to mental health services for our older adults and for people with disabilities. I urge my colleagues to support this bill to ensure that Medicare patients are receiving the care they need.”

“We applaud Senator Gillibrand for her leadership in working to address the unmet mental health needs of millions of seniors including the 3.6 million New Yorkers in Medicare. Our seniors are hit hard by the ongoing opioid crisis, chronic pain, depression and dementia. Psychologists are ready and available to address their treatment needs, and the Medicare Mental Health Access Act goes a long way toward ending Medicare’s outdated restrictions on access to their services,” said Katherine B. McGuire, Chief Advocacy Office, American Psychological Association.

Psychologists are currently the only doctoral-level health provider that is not included under Medicare’s definition of “physicians.” Physicians and mental health professionals are in short supply, particularly in rural and underserved areas, and therefore not available to oversee psychologists’ services. This bill comes after Gillibrand hosted town halls across New York State, meeting with older adults and disability rights advocates and hearing directly from them about their specific needs.

The full text of the bill may be found here.