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Contact Your Lawmakers to Urge Support of Social Worker Reimbursement Bills

Wednesday, April 10, 2019   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Melissa Wagner
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The Improving Access to Mental Health Act

(S. 782 and H.R. 1533)



Much-needed legislation to increase Medicare reimbursement to clinical social workers (CSWs) and to ensure access by Medicare beneficiaries to CSWs has been introduced in both chambers of Congress.  The Improving Access to Mental Health Act will provide a crucial step forward in care for Medicare beneficiaries and in advancing pay equity for social workers.


Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) a social worker and member of the Congressional Social Work Caucus, is the original bill sponsor in the Senate. "One in five Americans struggle with some kind of mental illness and older Americans are no exception," said Senator Stabenow "Michigan seniors should be able to get quality care from the provider of their choice and this bill ensures that clinical social workers are among those providers."

Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), a physician is the original co-sponsor of the bi-partisan bill. "Improving mental health care is an important personal priority of mine," said Senator Barrasso. "Once again, I am proud to join with Senator Stabenow to increase access to mental health services. As a doctor and leader of the Senate Rural Health Caucus, I am passionate about making sure everyone, especially those living in rural communities, can get the care they need."


"In less than two decades, the number of people aged 65 and older in the United States will outnumber people under age 18," said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. "The mental health needs of this population will be huge and possibly overwhelming. This legislation ensures a sufficient number of clinical social workers will be there to provide much-needed support and services."


This is truly a momentous occasion for social workers across the country and highlights how our issues transcend party lines!

Once enacted, S. 782/H.R. 1533 will:

  • Increase Medicare Reimbursement Rates for CSWs: The bill aligns Medicare payment for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers by increasing the reimbursement rate from 75% to 85% of the physician fee schedule.
    • Why is this important? If enacted, this measure will increase compensation of CSWs through Medicare and set a helpful precedent so that reimbursement rates for social work services can be increased in other programs, such as Medicaid and private insurance. This is a small step toward achieving higher salaries for social workers.
  • Increase Access to Mental Health Services for Residents of Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNF):  Currently, CSWs who are not employed by the SNF to provide medically-related social work services are unable to seek independent reimbursement under Medicare Part B for psychotherapy services. S. 782/H.R. 1533 would rectify this problem by excluding CSW services from SNF consolidated billing.
    • Why is this important? Currently Medicare beneficiaries who have been seeing a CSW cannot maintain the therapeutic relationship once they are admitted to a SNF, unless they privately pay to maintain their therapist, or the therapist is employed by the SNF. This measure will allow a Medicare beneficiary to maintain their CSW when transitioning into SNF level of care and to select a CSW outside of the SNF, billable under Medicare. This measure gives clients options to select their CSW and provides continuity of mental health care, while minimizing disruption of mental health care services.
  • Provide Access to Complete CSW Services that Help Medicare Beneficiaries Adjust to Physical Health Conditions: Although Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services are within the scope of practice for CSWs, Medicare currently only reimburses CSWs for the "diagnosis and treatment of mental illnesses." S. 782/H.R. 1533 would broaden the definition of "CSW services" to enable CSWs to receive Medicare reimbursement for HBAI services, within CSW scope of practice, which are cognitive, behavioral, social and psychophysiological procedures to prevent, treat, and improve physical health and well-being.
    • Why is this important? Currently, Medicare beneficiaries cannot access services by CSWs that help them adjust to physical health conditions. S. 782/H.R. 1533 would allow Medicare beneficiaries the ability to access these services that are critical to improved health outcomes. This provision simply allows reimbursement for services that CSWs already provide within their scope of practice, under their clinical license.

There are currently 14 cosponsor joining Congresswoman Lee in supporting H.R. 1533, including:

  1. Rep. Grijalva, Raul M. [D-AZ-3]
  2. Rep. Hill, Katie [D-CA-25]
  3. Rep. Soto, Darren [D-FL-9]
  4. Rep. Bishop, Sanford D., Jr. [D-GA-2]
  5. Rep. Schakowsky, Janice D. [D-IL-9]
  6. Rep. McCollum, Betty [D-MN-4]
  7. Rep. Watson Coleman, Bonnie [D-NJ-12]
  8. Rep. Clarke, Yvette D. [D-NY-9]
  9. Rep. Serrano, Jose E. [D-NY-15]
  10. Rep. Kaptur, Marcy [D-OH-9]
  11. Rep. DeFazio, Peter A. [D-OR-4]
  12. Rep. Evans, Dwight [D-PA-3]
  13. Rep. Wild, Susan [D-PA-7]
  14. Rep. Kilmer, Derek [D-WA-6]

Ensuring your Members of Congress hear from you is imperative to advancing this legislation. 


Please join us in supporting this legislation by contacting your Senators and Representatives TODAY and urging them to co-sponsor S. 782/H.R. 1533 Improving Access to Mental Health Act. Tell your elected officials about your experience as clinical social workers. A personalized communication goes a long way with a member of Congress. Help them to understand the importance of social worker reimbursement and compensation, and its impact on client access to mental health care services. Together we can help ensure clients have full access to the high-quality mental health services CSWs provide.


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