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NASW commends lawmakers for introducing bill to improve mental health care for older Americans; update Medicare reimbursement to social workers

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (second from left) meets with (from left) NASW Deputy Director of Programs Heidi McIntosh, NASW CEO Angelo McClain, and Julie Shroyer, senior policy adviser at Polsinelli PC, soon after introducing the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015 in the Senate.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (second from left) meets with (from left) NASW Deputy Director of Programs Heidi McIntosh, NASW CEO Angelo McClain, and Julie Shroyer, senior policy adviser at Polsinelli PC, soon after introducing the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015 in the Senate.

The National Association of Social Workers is pleased to announce Congressional social work champions introduced legislation today that will improve older Americans’ access to mental health services by updating the way the Medicare Program reimburses clinical social workers.

NASW CEO Angelo McClain visited the office of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on Oct. 8, 2015 to thank her for introducing the legislation.

NASW CEO Angelo McClain visited the office of Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) on Oct. 8, 2015 to thank her for introducing the legislation.

We urge our members, the wider social work community, and allies of the social work profession to take part in activities to encourage Congress to pass this important piece of legislation.

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015  was introduced by social workers Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA-13), members of the Congressional Social Work Caucus. The bill is H.R. 3712 in the House and S. 2173 in the Senate.

The bill would align Medicare payments for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician health care providers, such as nurse practitioners and nursing assistants, by increasing the reimbursement rate from 75 percent to 85 percent.

The new payment structure and change in reimbursements for clinical social workers at skilled nursing facilities will encourage trained and licensed professionals to care for more seniors in their communities.

The legislation will also give older Americans, no matter where they live, access to the full range of behavioral assessment and intervention services that clinical social workers provide.

Passing any legislation in Congress is difficult, especially proposals that require increased spending. However, NASW believes increasing the Medicare reimbursement rate to 85 percent of the physician fee schedule is a credible and politically viable option.

We hope you will join us in supporting this legislation by contacting your Senators and urging them to co-sponsor and contacting your Representative and urging him or her to co-sponsor the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015.

Join NASW’s Advocacy listserv to follow this  legislative and other issues important to social workers.  For more information on the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015 contact NASW Senior Field Organizer Dina Kastner at dkastner@naswdc.org.

12 comments

  1. I am very hopeful and supportive of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2015 . I work with and have a passion for this underserved population as they have limited support . I would like to support this bill and will contact my senators and colleges to advocate and co-sponsor this bill as well.

    • Ms. Tingen:

      Thanks so much for your support. We will try to keep you updated on the progress of this legislation.

      Greg Wright
      NASW Public Relations Manager

  2. This article links to Senator Stabenow’s webpage, but offers no link to the actual bill. While the bill’s reported intent is a 10% increase in Medicare reimbursement rates for Clinical Social Workers, where is the evidence this increase in payment will benefit Medicare beneficiaries? Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of Clinical Social Workers providing mental health services—what evidence may we provide that CSW interventions are more cost-effective than other Medicare providers’ interventions?

    Does the bill include any identification of potential funding sources to cover this extra 10% reimbursement? Is the bill based upon the traditional fee-for-service model (which is being phased out by CMS)?

    I thank these Social Work legislators for the good intent of this bill–promotion of Social Work professionals and service for our clients. Please accept the above questions as support toward lobbying for this bill from an evidence-based perspective. As a Social Worker, political conservative, NASW member and mental health advocate, I wish to serve our clients and profession accordingly.

    • Ms. Koon:

      Thank you for your comments. I will forward your questions along to our team working on this legislation.

      Greg Wright
      NASW Public Relations Manager

  3. I am very supportive in getting my Senator and Representative in co-sponsoring this bill. Mental Health is an increasing problem in in older adults and will continue to rise. My Mom suffers from major depression as well as other health ailments. She needs ongoing service for mental health not just partial service. There needs to be longer and more sessions that cover that array of services. With more sessions, the word “Recovery” is the key to better health.

  4. Scott Kampschaefer

    I am very grateful for this bill. I currently struggle in private practice work to earn enough money the way it is to keep working with older adults, so any increase is greatly appreciated. I think it is interesting Barbara Mikulski helped sponsor this bill, as she has not only been a great politician, but a very passionate social worker as well.

  5. Mental well-being is essential for everyone, and services that enable older people to restore and/or maintain their mental health is therefore absolutely necessary. Hence, H.R. 3712 and S. 2173 are absolutely necessary. I support both the legislation and the advocacy to obtain passage of the bill. I hope though that advocacy activities will focus on ensuring that legislators hear the voices of the persons who will benefit from this important legislation. Hearing from social workers is certainly important but I believe hearing from constituents, e.g., older persons, caretakers, etc. will go a long way in getting both the ear and vote of politicians.

    Marlene A. Saunders, Executive Director
    NASW-DE

  6. Daphne E. Griffith

    Attention!
    I’m pursing a BA Degree in Social Work at Nyack College and I started Spring 2015 as a transfer student with 44 Credits and I’m currently taking 12 credits this Semester. I have an AA Degree in Liberal Arts from B.M.C.C. I’m also interested in a full-time employment in the Family Court. Please let me know if you know of any job openings. I can be reached at (917) 432-7566 dynamicdaphne@yahoo.com. Thank you and God bless you.

  7. I am in full support of this bill. There’s so much that needs to be done for this population and this is a big help!! Well done!

  8. Our elders are one of the most isolated populations in our community and I support this bill quite strongly, having worked in end-of-life care for eleven years. We need to improve the quality of access for elders long before they are given a terminal prognosis. Aging presents multiple challenges to individuals and families and education is far behind what it could be, for all. Thanks for this article and look forward to the link for the bill being presented.

  9. I strongly support and applaud the efforts of these brave legislators. I would just hope that the insurance companies will also be supportive of this critical issue and abide by this increase if approved.

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