WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) applauds Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) for introducing the bipartisan Improving Access to Mental Health Act (S.2613), legislation that would increase public access to the vital mental health services that clinical social workers provide and offer clinical social workers more adequate Medicare reimbursement rates.
Their Senate bill is a companion to H.R. 1290, which was introduced in the House by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA). Stabenow and Lee are social workers and Barrasso is a physician. “Mental illness is an issue that touches so many families in some way and seniors 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 essential providers.”
“Our nation’s share of people who are aging is growing rapidly and older Americans are in dire need of improved mental health services so they can enjoy a better quality of life and live as independently as possible,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “NASW congratulates Sen. Stabenow and Sen. Barrasso and Rep. Lee for using their combined expertise in social work, health care and legislative leadership to craft bipartisan legislation to address this issue.”
Clinical social workers are one of the nation’s largest groups of providers of mental health services. Currently, there are more than 300,000 social workers in the United States working in health care, mental health and substance use disorder treatment, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The House and Senate versions of the “Improving Access to Mental Health Act” would increase access to mental health services for residents of skilled nursing facilities and provide access to the complete set of clinical services that help Medicare beneficiaries cope with medical conditions.
In addition, the bill would align Medicare payment for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers by increasing the reimbursement rate from 75 percent to 85 percent of the physician fee schedule.
There are already 14 co-sponsors for the House bill, which was released in March 2017. Sens. Stabenow and Barrasso introduced the Senate version of the bill on March 22.
“It is fitting that this legislation was introduced in March, which is Social Work Month,” McClain said. “There is no better way to recognize the contributions of the nation’s more than 650,000 social workers than to put forward a bill that would support the clients who social workers serve, improve our nation’s mental health delivery system, and give social workers the reimbursement they need to do their critically important work.”