Stabenow, Barrasso, Lee, Fitzpatrick Introduce Bill to Increase Seniors’ Access to Behavioral Health Services

Friday, March 17, 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Barrasso (R-WY) and U.S. Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA-12) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01) reintroduced their bill to increase seniors’ access to behavioral health services. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 would ensure clinical social workers can provide their full range of services to Medicare beneficiaries and increase the Medicare program’s reimbursement rate for clinical social workers, aligning it with that of other non-physician providers.


“Last year, we came together to pass transformative community mental health care to help ensure that people across the country, including seniors, have access to the behavioral health services they need,” said Senator Stabenow. “Providers play a critical role in delivering the quality care that people receive. Seniors should be able to receive care from the provider of their choice, and this bill ensures that clinical social workers are among those providers.”


“As a doctor, I know the importance of improving access to mental health services for our nation’s seniors,” said Senator Barrasso. “Our bipartisan legislation expands the number of mental health professionals that can provide critical care in our communities. This is vital for Wyoming and other rural communities across America, which often face the greatest shortage of mental health providers.”


“As a former psychiatric social worker, I know how important ensuring critical mental health services is for communities, especially marginalized communities. Clinical social workers are the largest group of mental health service providers in the country and by incentivizing them to become Medicare providers, we can expand access to continuous and high-quality mental health services for everyone. I am proud to join a fellow social worker, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Senator Barrasso in reintroducing this bill to expand essential mental health services for all,” said Congresswoman Lee.


“As co-chair of the bipartisan Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Taskforce, I am committed to securing Congressional funding for adequate mental health resources for American families who face these challenges, including Medicare beneficiaries” said Congressman Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to co-lead the Improving Access to Mental Health Act that ensures that seniors who utilize Medicare benefits have greater access to mental health services.”

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 would increase the Medicare payment reimbursement rate for clinical social workers from 75% to 85% of the physician fee schedule. This would align Medicare payments for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This new payment structure would incentivize trained and licensed professionals to care for more seniors in their communities. The bill also ensures clinical social workers can provide psychosocial services to patients in nursing homes, and the full range of Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services within their scope of practice.

The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 is supported by the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work, AFSCME, American Health Care Association, American Society on Aging, Center for Health and Social Care Integration at Rush, Clinical Social Work Association, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy, Council on Social Work Education, Jewish Federations of North America, Legal Action Center, National Association of Social Workers, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Network of Jewish Human Service Agencies, Postpartum Support International, Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care, the Gerontological Society of America, and the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

“Passage of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act is critical for our nation and the social work profession,” said NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C. “It will help Medicare beneficiaries access high-quality mental health services, and it will ensure clinical social workers can provide services within their scope of practice at a more equitable reimbursement rate.”

For years, Senator Stabenow has been a champion for increasing access to behavioral health and addiction services. Last year, Stabenow led the passage of the transformational initiative to fully fund high quality mental health and addiction services through Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. Due to the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, every state and the District of Columbia can expand behavioral health support to their residents.