WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced bipartisan legislation to help expand mental healthcare services for older Americans.
The Senators’ legislation, the Medicare Mental Health Access Act, would update the Medicare program by recognizing clinical psychologists as independent care providers, thus expanding mental healthcare options and access for Medicare beneficiaries. Clinical psychologists are doctoral-level providers who play an important role in delivering mental health services to the Medicare population. However, the Medicare program has not been updated to recognize clinical psychologists as independent care providers across all settings of care.
“Access to mental health care is a growing need in America, and we should be prioritizing ways to ensure older Americans have access to the providers that best meet their needs,” said Senator Brown. “Our bill gets us one step closer to meeting this gap in care, by recognizing clinical psychologists as independent service providers in the Medicare program in the same way we already do for physicians, chiropractors, and optometrists.”
“There is a growing need for mental health services among older Americans, but many Medicare beneficiaries face significant challenges accessing this care due to a lack of providers,” said Senator Collins. “By updating Medicare’s classification of clinical psychologists to better align with the policies of other major insurers, our bipartisan legislation would expand the availability of mental health treatment and help strengthen the wellbeing of our seniors.”
“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 introduce the bipartisan Medicare Mental Health Access Act with Senator Brown and Senator Collins. 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 they are receiving the care they need.”
More than a quarter of all Medicare beneficiaries experience mental disorders, including cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease. Serious mental illnesses such as bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia, are also prevalent among older Americans who are under the age of 65 and eligible for Medicare.