Thank you for your outreach last week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding their proposed cuts in reimbursement for clinical social workers (CSWs) participating in Medicare. More than 6,000 advocates contacted CMS and expressed their concern about the harmful impact to older Americans, and social workers, of these proposed cuts. We will be updating you soon on this federal regulatory threat.
Since you have demonstrated your commitment to pay equity and adequate reimbursement for our profession, we are reaching out to you now to urge you to contact your congressional lawmakers to cosponsor legislation to advance these goals: the Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S. 782/H.R. 1533).
This legislation will only advance if lawmakers hear directly from social workers they represent!
Currently, CSWs are reimbursed at 75 percent of the physician fee schedule, lower than any other mental health provider in Medicare. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act will raise this rate from 75 percent to 85 percent. This is a crucial step forward in ensuring mental health care for millions of Medicare beneficiaries and in increasing compensation for social workers.
In addition, this legislation will enable CSWs to bill Medicare Part B for:
- Providing services to residents of skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The vast majority of Medicare beneficiaries in SNFs experience anxiety, depression and other challenges. Millions of these beneficiaries also live with physical or medical conditions which give rise to similar challenges. This legislation will enable CSWs to be reimbursed by Medicare to provide much-needed services to these beneficiaries.
- Providing Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services. Millions of beneficiaries who have a physical or medical illness also have psychosocial concerns arising from those conditions. For example, a beneficiary with diabetes may face multiple challenges in understanding and managing their illness. HBAI services help the beneficiary identify and address emotional barriers to monitoring blood sugar levels, as well as familial resistance to changes in eating habits and lifestyle adjustments. Providing these services is in the CSW scope of practice but this legislation is imperative if they are to be able to bill Medicare for them.
This bipartisan legislation is championed by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, MSW (D-MI), Sen. John Barrasso, MD (R-WY) and Rep. Barbara Lee, MSW (D-CA-13).
To see if your lawmakers have cosponsored the legislation, go to www.congress.gov.
Please join us in supporting this legislation by contacting your Member of Congress TODAY and urging them to cosponsor S. 782/H.R. 1533 the Improving Access to Mental Health Act. Tell your elected officials about your experience as a CSW. A personalized communication goes a long way with a Member of Congress. Help them to understand the importance of client access to mental health care services and of adequate social worker reimbursement and compensation. Together we can help ensure clients have full access to the high-quality mental health services CSWs provide!