Support Incentive Payments for Clinical Social Workers in Medicare/Medicaid

Apr 29, 2010

Take Action Today!

Action Requested

Contact your Representative today about signing on as a cosponsor to H.R. 5040, the “HIT Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act.”


Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) has introduced bi-partisan legislation along with Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), a clinical psychologist, called the Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act of 2010 (H.R. 5040). The bill, introduced on April 15, 2010, would extend the new Medicare and Medicaid “meaningful use” incentive payments established under the HITECH Act within the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) to clinical social workers and other mental health and substance abuse providers and facilities.

ARRA provides $20 billion in incentives and grants to health care providers and hospitals to establish interoperable electronic health record (EHR) systems throughout the nation. Medicare and Medicaid ARRA payment incentives are available to most physicians, chiropractors, dentists, optometrists, podiatrists and hospitals.  However, Congress excluded from eligibility behavioral health providers, as well as most non-physician practitioners, because of cost concerns when the law was enacted in 2009. Among those providers who would be eligible for the payments under Rep. Kennedy’s H.R. 5040 are clinical social workers, clinical psychologists, psychiatric hospitals, substance use treatment facilities and mental health treatment facilities.

As enacted, ARRA establishes a vast national EHR system that excludes the electronic patient records of clinical social workers’ and other behavioral health providers. If the current law’s deficiency is not corrected, the behavioral health records of many consumers will likely remain in paper form and therefore less accessible to other health care providers. Nevertheless, there is a high risk that excluded providers would be compelled to use electronic health records systems to participate within commercial provider networks and to obtain EHR information from covered physicians and facilities. NASW is a supporter of strong patient privacy protections established within ARRA, and also believes that quality of care will likely be seriously compromised if the records of clinical social workers and other behavioral health providers remain excluded from developing EHR systems.

Details on H.R. 5040

NASW believes it is essential to integrate care delivered by clinical social workers with other behavioral health and medical providers, and this legislation will be an important priority for enactment. The Health Information Technology Extension for Behavioral Health Services Act would:

  • Clarify the definition “health care provider” throughout the HITECH/ARRA Act to include clinical social workers and psychologists, substance abuse professionals, psychiatric hospital, behavioral and mental health clinics, and substance use treatment facilities.
  • Establish grants for those mental health treatment facilities not eligible for meaningful use incentives through the HITECH/ARRA Act. The grants allow for purchasing certified EHRs, training medical staff in the use of EHRs, and improving the exchange of health information between mental health providers and other health care providers.

Extend Medicare and Medicaid payment incentives for meaningful use of EHRs to clinical social workers and psychologists, psychiatric hospitals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities.