National News

Members of Congress in both parties in the House and Senate have introduced legislation to close the “Medicare mental health coverage gap” --  the lack of coverage for services delivered by licensed professional counselors.  We need you to push to finally change this outdated policy, which deprives some of the most vulnerable Americans -- seniors and individuals who qualify for Medicare because of disability -- access to counseling services. As a licensed professional counselor, you have the expertise to provide lawmakers  with “on-the-ground” information  about the urgent nd unmet mental health needs of Medicare beneficiaries as Congress makes  major health policy decisions this year.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the mental health crisis in the U.S. and highlighted the shortage of mental health providers, particularly for the Medicare population, where high rates of mental illness can co-exist with physical disabilities and result in costly adverse outcomes. The American Counseling Association (ACA) is calling on the counseling community to unite and fight for inclusion as Medicare providers so we can build resilience and strength for all members of our communities.

There are more than 140,000 licensed professional counselors across the country ready to provide needed treatment, especially in rural areas where they are often the only mental health professional available. LPCs are not able to be reimbursed by Medicare, despite the fact they have education, training, and practice rights equivalent to or greater than existing covered providers. LPCs are licensed for independent practice in all 50 states, and are covered by private sector health plans.

Please contact our elected leaders, Senator John Thune, Senator Mike Rounds, and Representative Dusty Johnson, and share YOUR personal stories of how this is impacting the clients you serve. it is important that we educate them on why our services are critical to this population. Below is some additional information for your communication.

The Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828/HR 432) would improve access to mental health services by permitting Licensed Mental Health Counselors (LMHC) to be reimbursed as Medicare providers. Medicare is the primary insurance provider for approximately 59 million Americans, which includes adults age 65 and older and younger people with long-term disabilities. These individuals cannot currently use Medicare to see a LMHC. This limits their access to mental health care, especially in rural communities where mental health professionals are much more likely to be LMHCs.

We are in a mental health crisis and our clients are suffering unnecessarily, due to a lack of federal policy. The Mental Health Access Improvement Act has been re-introduced in the House and Senate to enable the nation's 200,000 LPCs to be reimbursed for treating Medicare beneficiaries and provide mental health services to those in need. Please cosponsor S. 828 in the Senate and H.R. 432 in the House.


Below are a few resources from ACA.

ACA Support Access to Mental Health Services for Seniors

ACA Medicare MH Coverage Gap-Executive Summary DRAFT

How to Advocate.pdf

SDCA, SDSCA, and SDMHCA is not always at liberty to take a stance on all issues, we do encourage our members (and really all citizens) to become informed and to share their viewpoints with their elected officials. We encourage you to take part of any open forums in your areas as well, as this is a great way to be heard on a local level.

Please see the following links for contact information as well as tips for reaching out to senators and representatives. 

We sincerely thank you for your advocacy efforts.
SDCA Executive Committee

For current national issues and what you can do to help go to: https://www.counseling.org/government-affairs/public-policy. This is available to ACA members and non-members alike. Check out information regarding:

  • Medicare Coverage of LPCs.
  • Mental Health Providers in the VA.
  • Reducing student to counselor ratios through the Student Support Act.

For information about the US Congress and the national legislative process, go to Congress.gov at http://beta.congress.gov/ and find out how:

  • To search bills by topic, bill number, or title.
  • To locate updated contact information for our Senators and Representatives.

Please feel free to contact your Government Relations Committee with questions or concerns.