Effective January 16, 2022, HHS Secretary Becerra renewed the public health emergency declaration for another ninety days as a result of the continued consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. View the ACCSES Update for more details.
Do you believe older adults and individuals with disabilities should have easier access to mental health services? (We certainly do).
Currently, marriage and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors are not eligible Medicare providers, despite the important role they play in delivering treatment, recovery, and prevention services.
However, there is new legislation to change that – and it needs your support!
On March 18, Senators John Barrasso (R-WY) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) reintroduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (S. 828). This legislation would allow marriage and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors to participate in the Medicare program, dramatically expanding access to care for older adults and individuals with disabilities.
This simple change would immediately increase patients’ access to needed care, particularly in underserved communities, rural areas, and areas with a mental health workforce shortage.
Thank you to those of you who already took action to ask your Representatives to cosponsor the House version.
Today, Xavier Becerra was confirmed, with a narrow approval (50-49), as the new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Becerra, currently serving as California’s Attorney General, was also a former member of Congress. He will play a part in the Biden Administration’s plans to create a Medicare-like public health care option, health care reform, and take on a major role with HHS helping to facilitate COVD-19 vaccinations and testing efforts. Read more.
Big news from HHS….and welcome news, considering the uncertain future of the 4th package negotiations between the House, the Senate and the Administration. See the highlighted sections below, but at first read, our members are eligible. (Note: the Medicaid only tranche was considered part of the Phase 2 General Distribution).
We will continue to dig into the details and also analyzing the reporting requirements that came out recently!
Statement from HHS:
Today, under the leadership of President Trump, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is announcing $20 billion in new funding for providers on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. Under this Phase 3 General Distribution allocation, providers that have already received Provider Relief Fund payments will be invited to apply for additional funding that considers financial losses and changes in operating expenses caused by the coronavirus. Previously ineligible providers, such as those who began practicing in 2020 will also be invited to apply, and an expanded group of behavioral health providers confronting the emergence of increased mental health and substance use issues exacerbated by the pandemic will also be eligible for relief payments.
Providers can begin applying for funds on Monday, October 5, 2020.
“HHS has worked to ensure that all American healthcare providers receive support from the Provider Relief Fund in a fast and fair way, and this new round helps ensure that we are reaching America’s essential behavioral health providers and takes into account losses and expenses relating to coronavirus,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “We’ve worked with all of the resources we have across HHS to ensure that America’s heroic healthcare providers know they can apply for support.”
HHS has already issued over $100 billion in relief funding to providers through prior distributions. Still, HHS recognizes that many providers continue to struggle financially from COVID-19’s impact. For eligible providers, the new Phase 3 General Distribution is designed to balance an equitable payment of 2 percent of annual revenue from patient care for all applicants plus an add-on payment to account for revenue losses and expenses attributable to COVID-19.
Further, HHS recognizes constraints such as the stay-at-home orders and social isolation have been particularly difficult for many Americans. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found the prevalence of symptoms of anxiety disorder in the second quarter of 2020 was approximately three times those that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (25.5% versus 8.1%); and the prevalence of depressive disorder was approximately four times that reported in the second quarter of 2019 (24.3% versus 6.5%). Our behavioral health providers have shouldered the burden of responding and confronting this expanded challenge triggered by the pandemic. When traditional face-to-face counseling was restricted and new telehealth flexibilities were put in place in response to the pandemic, many behavioral health providers invested in and adopted – PDF telehealth technologies to continue providing patient care. While some Medicare or Medicaid behavioral health providers have already received prior General Distribution payments, others have not. Working with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), HRSA developed a list of the nation’s behavioral health providers now eligible for funding, which includes, for example, addiction counseling centers, mental health counselors, and psychiatrists.
HHS is making a large number of providers eligible for Phase 3 General Distribution funding, including:
Payment Methodology – Apply Early
All eligible providers will be considered for payment against the below criteria.
We know providers want to receive payments shortly after submitting their information. However, this distribution requires cooperation on the part of all applicants. Again, HHS is urging all eligible providers to apply early; do not wait until the last day or week of the application period. Applying early will help to expedite HHS’s review process and payment calculations, and ultimately accelerate the distribution of all payments.
All payment recipients will be required to attest to receiving the Phase 3 General Distribution payment and accept the associated Terms and Conditions.
Providers will have from October 5, 2020 through November 6, 2020 to apply for Phase 3 General Distribution funding. HHS’s top priority is ensuring as many providers possible have an opportunity to apply. HHS will continue to host webinars to assist providers through the application process and the call center is also available to address questions.
HHS recognizes the multifaceted challenges of this pandemic cannot be won without frontline healthcare providers focused on containing the virus and delivering holistic care. Funding for this Phase 3 General Distribution was made possible through the bipartisan CARES Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which allocated $175 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) received direction from President Trump to temporarily suspend a number of rules so that hospitals, clinics, and other health care facilities can boost their frontline medical staff as they take on the COVID-19 pandemic. The changes will focus on reducing supervision and certification requirements in order for practitioners to be hired quickly and perform work to the fullest extent of their licenses. As a result of this action, doctors can now directly care for patients at rural hospitals, across state lines if necessary without being physically present; Nurse practitioners can now perform some medical exams on Medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities so that patient needs can be met; Occupational therapists from home health agencies can now perform initial assessments on certain homebound patients; and Hospice nurses will be relieved of hospice aide in-service training tasks so they can spend more time with patients.
For additional guidance, CMS has published a list of workforce flexibilities that CMS has permitted thus far.