Take action: Help us make psychology eligible for incentive payments

New physician definition legislation introduced in House of Representatives.

By Government Relations staff

The APA Practice Organization needs your help to build congressional support for the new bipartisan Behavioral Health Information Technology (BHIT) Act, H.R. 2957, introduced Aug. 1, 2013, in the House of Representatives. The act would make psychologists eligible under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act for Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments to integrate electronic health records into their practices.

Grassroots action is critical to our mission of supporting and advancing the profession of psychology. Visit APAPO’s Legislative Action Center and urge your representative to cosponsor the BHIT bill. 

Introduced by Representatives Tim Murphy, R-Pa. and Ron Barber, D-Ariz., the act would also extend eligibility for incentive funds to mental and behavioral health providers and facilities, including nationally accredited community mental health centers, psychiatric hospitals, residential and outpatient mental health treatment facilities and substance use treatment facilities. Psychologist eligibility under the HITECH Act will promote the integration of mental health in primary care settings, reduce adverse drug-to-drug interactions, reduce duplicative tests and provide necessary information to hospital emergency departments to triage patients more effectively. 

When the HITECH Act went into effect in July 2010, it authorized the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to provide a reimbursement incentive for physician and hospital providers who are successful in becoming “meaningful users” of electronic health records (EHRs). Eligible professionals were defined as medical doctors, doctors of osteopathy, dentists, dental surgeons, podiatrists, optometrists and chiropractors. Psychologists and most other non-physician providers were excluded from receiving Medicare and Medicaid incentive payments. 

An estimated 70 percent of the eight million Americans with serious mental illnesses served by the public behavioral health system have comorbid chronic diseases such as diabetes, lung cancer, heart disease and emphysema. EHRs will enhance mental health providers’ ability to better coordinate care for people with mental health and addiction disorders. 

In March, psychology leaders from across the country gathered in Washington, D.C., to attend more than 330 meetings with members of Congress, pressing to end the exclusion of mental health from the nation’s developing health information technology infrastructure. APAPO has taken a seat at the national level of health care reform, but we need your continued support in order to keep it. 

Grassroots feedback is extremely important to our advocacy efforts. Please send any substantive responses you receive from your representatives to APA Practice Director of Field and State Operations Ashton Randle.