Counseling Professionals Lobbying for Medicare Coverage

Northwest Counseling Inc. has turned away countless seniors seeking mental health services because Medicare does not cover LPCs and LMFTs for outpatient counseling. A proposed Federal law would cover Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists to treat seniors.

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Mental Health Counseling Professions make up 40% of mental health practitioners in the United States. Medicare has not been modernized to recognize their essential contribution."

Bentonville, Arkansas (PRWEB) April 09, 2013

When Seniors seek counseling services they are often confronted with a harsh reality. The referrals they receive are for Licensed Professional Counselors or Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists who are unable to accept their Medicare Part B insurance.

Only Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Ph.D. Psychologists and Psychiatrists are eligible for Medicare reimbursements. Legislation is under consideration that would allow outpatient counseling to be performed by private practice counseling agencies who employ Licensed Professional Counselors and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists.

At Northwest Counseling, Inc. and many other private practice clinics in Arkansas and the US, it is frustrating to be unable to help seniors when they need it if they depend on Medicare.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers provide mostly the same services as LPCs and LMFTs who provide approximately 40 % of the nations mental health services.

It is heartbreaking to turn away senior adults, says one therapist at NCI. We do what we can to see some on a pro bono basis but many don't stay, wishing to pay their own way, or don't come at all when they learn that Medicare does not pay for LPC or LMFT counseling.

The 1965 Social Security Act predates most state mental health licensing laws. Arkansas established licensed professional counseling in 1979. Separate licensing of marriage and family therapists was added in 1997.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Psychologists and Psychiatrists were included in the 1965 Act. LPCs and LMFTs therapists practice significantly overlapping therapies compared to Licensed Clinical Social Workers. Mental Health Professions have come of age. Professional therapy organizations argue that LPC's and LMFT's are equally qualified to be covered by Medicare.

Pending legislation reintroduced by Oregon Democrat Senator Ron Wyden and Republican Senator John Barrasso proposes that credentialed LPC's and LMFT's be added to Medicare Part B coverage.

The Seniors Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2013 was introduced to the Senate on March 14, 2013 and referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

Both the American Counseling Association and the American Mental Health Counseling Association endorse the Act. It would significantly improve mental health care for seniors who live in rural areas where there may be shortages of LCSW, Psychologists and Psychiatrists.

In addition, AMHCA says that medicare dollars would be well spent to improve the mental health of seniors. There may be an overall savings to medicare. Treatment in Psychiatric hospitals, by Psychologists and Emergency Rooms is very costly. Conditions treated by Licensed Counselors would improve preventative and active mental healthcare and reduce the number of emergency room visits.

Mental Health Counseling Professions make up 40% of mental health practitioners in the United States. According to the ARMHC website, "Medicare has not been modernized to recognize their essential contribution in today's health delivery system."

If the bill passes NCI would not have to turn away its Medicare clients. LPCs and LMFTs across the country would increase the care for seniors across the country.

Northwest Counseling, Inc. serves Bella Vista, Rogers, Bentonville, Centerton and all of Northwest Arkansas. Its clientele are children age 3 through seniors. William D. Oldham, LPC and NCI staff therapists are fully licensed in Arkansas for mental health counseling. Since 2001 NCI has improved the lives of people through authentic professional support. NCI serves families, children, married couples, and individuals with a wide array of emotional, relational and mental health issues.

NCI is located at 2705 SE G Street in Bentonville, Arkansas. 479.855.5704. bill@ncicares.com


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