Grassroots psychologists advocate for Medicare reimbursement

In the face of steep challenges, psychologists are ratcheting up their advocacy

By Government Relations staff

October 27, 2011—The August enactment of the Budget Control Act has significantly altered the dynamics on Capitol Hill, as a newly empowered joint deficit reduction committee seeks to identify $1.2 trillion in additional debt savings. If the committee fails to reach an agreement that can pass both chambers, Medicare provider payments would be cut by up to 2 percent in addition to the already pending 29.5 percent Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cut. Psychologists could face a triple hit because the 5 percent psychotherapy payment restoration is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012 if Congress fails to act.

In the face of steep challenges, the APA Practice Organization (APAPO) is ratcheting up its grassroots advocacy.

“The support of constituent psychologists is very important to our advocacy agenda,” says APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD. “What our members of Congress hear from their constituents is often more compelling than what they hear from those of us in Washington.”

Since September 26, psychologists have sent 14,500 messages via APAPO’s Legislative Action Center to their elected officials on Capitol Hill, urging them to stand against steep Medicare cuts.

Send a message to your Senator and Representative

And by press time, psychologists and APAPO staff had met or were scheduled to meet with the offices of members of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction and these House leaders to win support for the Medicare psychotherapy extender and gather intelligence about its prospects in the committee: 

  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) 

  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) 

  • Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) 

  • Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) 

  • Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) 

  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) 

  • Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) 

  • Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) 

  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) 

  • Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) 

  • Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) 

  • Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) 

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) 

  • Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) 

  • Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) 

  • Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) 

  • Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA)

Several good contacts were made by Government Relations staff who attended fundraising events made possible by psychologists who donate to AAP/PLAN, psychology’s national political action committee.

APAPO Government Relations staff briefed the psychologists who participated on Capitol Hill. The psychologists shared their colleagues’ commitment to serving the needs of the nation’s elderly amidst the challenges of running small businesses in the face of major cuts to reimbursement. They offered their unique perspectives on the impact of reimbursement changes on the viability of their practices and the health of their patients.

The Medicare psychotherapy extender, known in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 as the Mental Health Add-On, boosts psychotherapy payments by 5 percent to compensate for cuts made by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Five Year Review of 2006. The reimbursement boost was extended in two subsequent laws. The provision expires January 1, 2012.

Psychology is seeking an additional year because the consideration of psychotherapy values in the 2011 Five Year Review is being delayed and there will not be a Relative Value Update Committee recommendation ready for CMS in time to affect rates in 2012. The cost is approximately $30 million a year, which is small by comparison to other extenders but very important to psychologists and their Medicare patients.

For more information contact the APAPO Government Relations office by email or by phone at (202) 336-5889.