In the mental health care professions, there is a vast collection of specialties ranging from a focus on specific events or periods in life to different kinds of care. The great diversity of concentrations and applications within the field can achieve great things for clients and helps to propel the industry toward greater breakthroughs with collaboration and the benefits of a variety of perspectives. But when it comes to regulation surrounding mental health care, the distinctions between titles, degrees, and licensure can sometimes get caught up in misunderstandings or misapplications by legislators. One of the largest hubs of mental health care legislation in the United States is the Medicare program, which aims to provide services to many financially disadvantaged citizens, especially the elderly.
Until recently, America’s rural areas were faced with a piece of Medicare regulation that didn’t particularly make sense for their unique situations. The rules for the program stated that only psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and clinical nurse specialists were able to bill Medicare for their services. While this may seem perfectly agreeable in many major metropolitan areas, a great deal of out-of-the-way places across the nation struggled to reconcile the rule with the fact that there simply weren’t any professionals with those specific credentials in their area. Rather, they relied on family and marriage therapists as well as licensed professional counselors to provide quality mental health care.
A new piece of legislation introduced by Senator Pat Roberts, a republican from Kansas, proposes to amend this rule by allowing therapists and counselors to bill the Medicare program for their services at the same rate of pay as previously approved professionals. While the bill still has a ways to go through the lawmaking process, many hope that it will succeed and form an important piece of the complex puzzle of national mental health care, helping to clear up legal confusions about the industry and its many facets at the same time.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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