HR4277 was introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) in December 2015. If passed, the bill would amend the current Medicare “physician” definition to include psychologists.
What is important to know about this bill as a licensed psychologist?
- Amending title XVIII of the Social Security Act to provide for the treatment by clinical psychologists will increase access to high quality mental health coverage and begin to decrease existing disparities in psychological care nationwide
- Amending the Act will allow for genuine integration of the mental health care system with the physical healthcare system.
- Due to a severe psychiatric workforce shortage across the nation, there are many instances in which psychiatrists are only available one time per week to see patients. The weekly encounters could include inpatient psychiatric hospitals, geriatric partial hospitalization, or adolescent hospitalization. In other, more common, instances, psychiatrists are not available at all, depending on the geographic location.
- Currently, psychologists cannot bill under Evaluation and Management (E & M) codes. As such, they are unable to evaluate patients in the aforementioned settings without the supervision of a psychiatrist or other physician, therefore adding greater disparity in access to care.
- Integration of psychologists and inclusion into the physician definition would not reconstitute them as physicians or expand their scope of practice. The bill clearly delineates a clinical psychologists’ unchanged scope of practice. Only state licensure laws may change a psychologists’ scope of practice. Amendment of the Act will allow psychologists to serve Medicare beneficiaries to the fullest extent of their licensure.
To read the bill, which is only 2 pages in length, please visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1173
To find and contact your House or Senate representative and urge them to support and co-sponsor the bill, please visit: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ and http://www.senate.gov/senators/contact/
If you have any questions about the bill or how to become more involved with advocacy in Pennsylvania, please email Dr. Edwards at DrEdwards@DrShannonEdwards.com.