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Practice Directorate activity highlights: August 2011 to January 2012

By Communications staff

March 8, 2012—The Practice Directorate engages in a broad range of activities on behalf of practicing psychologists in diverse settings and consumers of psychological services. The directorate’s primary activities involve advancing and protecting professional psychology and consumers’ access to psychological services.

APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, provides staff leadership for the work of the APA Practice Directorate as well as the APA Practice Organization (APAPO), a companion organization to APA. The APAPO was created in 2001 as a 501(c)(6) organization under IRS rules to enable additional advocacy for the professional practice community beyond what APA, as a 501(c)(3) organization, is legally permitted to do.

Brief highlights of selected Practice Directorate activities and significant developments from August 2011 to January 2012 can be found under the appropriate tabs below.

Health care

Playing an active role in health care reform implementation

Much of the hard work of health care reform implementation will be carried out on the state level. Some of the critical roles states have to play in bringing health care reform to reality have been stipulated in the law, including the creation of health insurance exchanges, the redesign and expansion of Medicaid services, and the requirements of accountable care organizations. Psychologists must be prepared to take advantage of developing opportunities and state psychological associations must take an active role in directing and supporting the advocacy activities of their members. To this end, the March 2012 State Leadership Conference (SLC) theme will be “Bringing Psychology to the Table: State Leadership in Health Care Reform.” Practice Directorate and Practice Organization staff members are hard at work preparing for this 29th SLC, to be held in Washington, DC.

The APA Practice Organization began the State Implementation of Health Care Reform initiative with an advisory group comprising state leaders representing various constituencies. The initiative works to generate resources and expertise that state psychological associations can use to position psychology for maximal participation in health care reform within their states. In October and December, Dr. Nordal addressed health care reform summits sponsored by the state psychological associations of Massachusetts and Maryland, respectively.

Also in October 2011, the APA Practice Directorate commended the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) for its efforts to integrate mental and behavioral health into NCQA’s medical home model. During the development phase of these tools, the Practice Directorate submitted comments recommending specific changes to enhance behavioral health services.

Providing guidance to members regarding implementation of the federal mental health parity law

On November 17, 2011, the Department of Labor – one of the three federal agencies responsible for enforcement of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act – released a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help people understand and benefit from the 2008 federal parity law. The FAQs deal with common questions raised by psychologists with regard to the February 2010 Interim Final Rule, the regulations that implement and expand on the parity law. The Practice Update e-newsletter from the APA Practice Organization featured an article on the Department of Labor’s guidance.

Pursuing advocacy to influence the inclusion of mental health providers in Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) incentive payments

APAPO continues to meet with congressional offices to build support for and gain cosponsors of The Behavioral Health Information Technology Act of 2011 (S. 539), legislation pursued by APAPO and introduced in the spring of 2011 after The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted by Congress in 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, failed to include psychologists and most other non-physician providers among those eligible to receive Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments and grant funds to adopt electronic health record keeping (EHR).  
A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the House by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), who sits on the committee with jurisdiction over the issue. APAPO believes this issue is more likely to move in the Senate than in the House, but will have a better sense of its chances once the bill is introduced and Representatives react.  In addition, APAPO will again feature the bill as one of three issues to be discussed when psychology leaders meet with their members of Congress and staff during the 2012 State Leadership Conference in March.

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