U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow reintroduced her bipartisan bill to increase seniors' access to behavioral health services. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 would ensure clinical social workers can provide their full range of services to Medicare beneficiaries and increase the Medicare program's reimbursement rate for clinical social workers, aligning it with that of other non-physician providers. U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY) is a co-sponsor of the bill.
"Last year, we came together to pass transformative community mental health care to help ensure that people across the country, including seniors, have access to the behavioral health services they need," said Senator Stabenow. "Providers play a critical role in delivering the quality care that people receive. Seniors should be able to receive care from the provider of their choice, and this bill ensures that clinical social workers are among those providers."
The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 would increase the Medicare payment reimbursement rate for clinical social workers from 75% to 85% of the physician fee schedule. This would align Medicare payments for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This new payment structure would incentivize trained and licensed professionals to care for more seniors in their communities. The bill also ensures clinical social workers can provide psychosocial services to patients in nursing homes, and the full range of Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services within their scope of practice.
The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 is supported by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, AFSCME, American Health Care Association, American Society on Aging, Center for Health and Social Care Integration at Rush, Clinical Social Work Association, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy, Council on Social Work Education, Jewish Federations of North America, Legal Action Center, National Association of Social Workers, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Postpartum Support International, Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care, the Gerontological Society of America, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
"Every year, nearly one out of five people in our nation experiences a mental health condition, with more than half of the population being diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act is a critical piece of legislation that will support our nation's most vulnerable who are experiencing significant health and mental health challenges," said Duane Breijak, Executive Director for the National Association of Social Workers - Michigan Chapter. "It is more important than ever to support our behavioral health workforce, and this bill will both expand access to care as well as reduce reimbursement inequity for clinical social workers."
For years, Senator Stabenow has been a champion for increasing access to behavioral health and addiction services. Last year, Stabenow led the passage of the transformational initiative to fully fund high quality mental health and addiction services through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. Due to the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, every state and the District of Columbia can expand behavioral health support to their residents. Michigan began participating in Senator Stabenow's behavioral health initiative in 2021.