2011 Presidential Candidate Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD

Fair compensation is a major concern for psychologists working in a variety of work settings. What programs or activities would you pursue to address this concern?

by Melba J.T. Vasquez, PhD

Fair compensation is a major concern for psychologists working in a variety of work settings. What programs or activities would you pursue to address this concern?

We must achieve fair compensation for all forms of practice, both traditional and new. The following steps will help us reach that goal:

  • Advocate restoration of the 5% cut in Medicare reimbursement, prevention of the 21% SGR cut scheduled for 2010 and the 1% increase in provider payments in 2010.

  • Arrange for psychologists to be included within the Medicare "physician" definition (various groups base their reimbursement rates on Medicare's categories and rate determinations).

  • Reform insurance to maintain parity in coverage of and reimbursement for psychological services.

  • Sue managed care companies engaged in illegal reimbursement practices; support managed care reform bills at state and federal levels.

  • Encourage community health teams to include psychologists in rural/underserved areas with appropriate payment and other incentives for psychologists.

  • Promote health care reform that integrates mental and behavioral health care into primary care and all other health care services for persons across the lifespan.

  • Engage in public education (e.g Stress in America Survey, NPR announcements) about who we are, what we do, and how what we do is both needed and effective.

  • Advocate for naming the evolving "medical home model" "health home model."

  • Support other federal and state advocacy, e.g. protecting the doctorate as the minimal level of entry into the profession and RxP.

  • Collaborate more with the business community, especially on prevention and productivity efforts.

  • Strengthen psychology's influence on Capitol Hill through increased advocacy, and expansion of the c6 arm of the Practice Directorate.

What do you envision to be the best models for delivery of psychological services in a reformed health care system?

An important practice opportunity for psychologists is the movement toward partnering and practicing with primary-care physicians and other health providers. Health care reform must integrate psychological services in primary care, preventive services, and any benefit packages. Just as the VA integrates primary and psychological services so that psychologists are physically present, so should the evolving models promote health care teams that include psychologists and treat the whole person. Our psychological science informs us of the mind/body connection, including the role of behavioral interventions in treating and preventing chronic diseases.

Psychologists are uniquely trained and qualified to best address the role that behavior plays in seven of the 10 leading causes of mortality and morbidity. Basic health-care services must include the psychological treatment of physical conditions in order to maximize rehabilitation and increase quality of life. Imagine the opportunities if we have a psychologist in every medical office from primary care practices to pediatricians, ob/gyns, oncologists, etc.

The APAPO, with the support of CAPP, can develop blueprints and models for psychologists to promote both traditional and newer methods of working more closely with the health care system, and ways for consumers to access care, e.g. telehealth. Those models must also include strategies to reduce health/mental health disparities and the promotion of a culturally competent profession.

With our broad and research-based definition of evidence-based practice, and excellent treatment outcome research, we are ready to develop psychological treatment guidelines in order to meet any accountability requirements for reimbursements and health-care payments.


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