APA opposes efforts to repeal provider non-discrimination clause

Physician-sponsored legislation could exclude psychologists from some health plans.

By Government Relations staff

On Aug. 19, APA signed onto a joint letter with the Patients’ Access to Responsible Care Alliance (PARCA) urging Congress to oppose HR 2817, the Protect Patient Access to Quality Health Professionals Act of 2013. The ironically named bill proposed by Representative Andy Harris, MD, R-Md., would repeal a key patient-centered provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that bars health plans from discriminating against health care providers who are acting within the scope of their licensure or certification under state law with respect to health plan participation or coverage. 

If enacted, HR 2817 would repeal Section 2706(a), Title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act, which APA and the APA Practice Organization strongly advocated for in the ACA. Section 2706(a) prohibits the exclusion of entire classes of qualified licensed health care professionals, such as psychologists, from most health plans, and gives consumers greater choice in selecting a health care provider. The current provision, set to become effective on Jan. 1, 2014, is included in the health insurance market reform section of the ACA and is intended to protect the patient’s right to access coverage from a full range of providers; it does not require health plans to accept every provider willing to abide by the terms and conditions for participation established by the plan or issuer.

Though the proposed bill purports to protect patient access to quality health providers, it would actually limit access to and choice of qualified, licensed nonphysician providers. Limiting access to non-physician providers reduces competition and concentrates economic benefits into the hands of select providers, which will increase costs for consumers and the health care delivery system as a whole. 

“Part of our overall health care strategy is to make sure practicing psychologists are not excluded from participating as key mental health providers in any delivery systems that may evolve as a result of health care reform,” says APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD. “And safeguarding Section 2706 is vital to ensuring provider nondiscrimination.” 

APA has been a longtime member of PARCA, a national coalition which represents the interests of patients and nonphysician health care professionals. PARCA is comprised of thirteen organizations including APA, the American Academy of Audiology, the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and the American Chiropractic Association. 

Read the letter from PARCA to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce (PDF, 189KB).