Article Published: 5/24/2023
The Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition recently sponsored two introductory webinars about the Medicare program and the coming addition of mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists (MFTs) as recognized providers, hosted by NBCC. NBCC and Affiliates Board Chair Monalisa McGee-Baratta, PhD, NCC, MAC, LPC, CPC, LMHC, LMHP, introduced both webinars.
“Medicare 101: An Introduction to the Medicare Program and Coverage of Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists” was held April 21. A recording of the webinar is available. You can also download the PowerPoint presentation.
“Medicare 201: The Implementation of Medicare Part B Coverage of Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists” was held May 5. A recording of the webinar is available, and you can download the PowerPoint presentation.
“We are thrilled with the attendance and participation in both webinars,” says NBCC Legislative Research Manager Jolie A. Long, MS, EdS, NCC, MAC, LCMHC. “The response to these webinars demonstrated the strong interest counselors and MFTs have to be part of the Medicare program. We will continue to seek answers to your questions from experts in the field in the lead up to Jan. 1, 2024.”
In December 2022, the omnibus appropriations bill added counselors and MFTs to Medicare through language from the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. This accomplished what NBCC and the Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition have been working toward for decades: Beginning Jan. 1, 2024, counselors will be able to bill Medicare directly for covered services to beneficiaries over age 65 and people with disabilities who receive Medicare benefits.
This was a great victory for the counseling profession, but many counselors have questions about what to expect when the law is implemented. The Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition prepared these webinars to address questions and concerns and help counselors and MFTs navigate the forthcoming changes. NBCC and the coalition want to ensure counselors and MFTs are equipped with the most up-to-date information to facilitate a smooth transition into the Medicare program. We are working closely with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to learn all we can, and we want to pass this along to practitioners so they are ready for the January start date.
In Medicare 101, the Coalition welcomed speakers Meredith Freed, MPP, senior policy analyst for the Program on Medicare Policy at Kaiser Family Foundation, and Matthew Fullen, PhD, MDiv, LPCC, an associate professor of counselor education at Virginia Tech University and a recognized expert on aging and mental health.
Freed provided an overview of the Medicare program and current mental health and substance use benefits that beneficiaries receive, with a focus on demographics and the role of Medicare Advantage plans. Dr. Fullen highlighted the provisions of the Mental Health Access Improvement Act embodied in the 2023 omnibus legislation and implications for counselors and MFTs.
The webinar concluded with a Q&A session. Freed and Dr. Fullen answered questions about eligibility requirements, telehealth reimbursement, joining Medicare Advantage plan networks, and more.
The key speaker for Medicare 201 was Doug Jacobs, MD, MPH. Dr. Jacobs is a board certified internal medicine physician and the chief transformation officer for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). He discussed Medicare implementation concerns for counselors and the Physician Fee Schedule rulemaking process.
Dr. Jacobs spoke about the importance of hearing directly from counselors as CMS develops the draft rules for the 2024 Physician Fee Schedule. NBCC will let NCCs know about all opportunities to make your voices heard and advocate for rules that best reflect the abilities of counselors.
NBCC Legislative Research Manager Jolie Long presented on the implementation of Medicare Part B coverage for counselors and MFTs, with expected steps for becoming a Medicare provider. This included such important concepts as Medicare Administrative Contractors and the online Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System (PECOS).
Additional panelists for Medicare 201 were Guila Todd, government affairs manager for the American Counseling Association; Roger Smith, JD, director of government affairs and general counsel for the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy; and Stephanie Katz, Esq., MPH, assistant vice president of policy and advocacy for the National Council for Mental Wellbeing. These panelists offered their views on the historic addition of counselors and MFTs to Medicare and expectations for the rulemaking and implementation process.
The Q&A portion of the webinar tackled such topics as enrollment for practitioners licensed in multiple states, focused case management, benefits of becoming a Medicare Advantage provider, the fee schedule determination process, and more.
Thank you to everyone who attended the live webinars for making them such a success. If you missed the live events, we hope you will view the recorded webinars. For more information as events develop, keep an eye on our Medicare FAQ.
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