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Legislative Alerts

CSWA Director of Legislation and Policy, Laura Groshong regularly provides Legislative/Regulatory Alerts to the membership to keep them informed about important legislation or regulations that have been introduced at the national level.  In addition to keeping members informed, the CSWA also monitors all current national legislation that affects clinical social workers and the need for action to members of Congress. The list of Legislative Alerts listed below allows members to review the history of CSWA action on national bills in Congress that affect clinical social workers and the outcomes of our actions.

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  • 30 Nov 2021 5:28 PM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    As we continue our pandemic journey, changes to the use of telemental health continue to develop.  Two significant ones from CMS have come out this month, one on Place of Service (POS) codes and one on in-person visits required for telemental health treatment.

    Place of Service Codes

    POS codes are being divided by 1. telemental health provided outside the patient’s home and 2. telemental health provided in the patient’s home.  POS 02, which previously covered both categories, should only be used as of January 1, 2022, for telemental health psychotherapy provided outside the patient’s home.  POS 10, a new code, should be used as of January 1, 2022, for telemental health psychotherapy provided in the patient’s home.  The complete descriptions are as follows:

    1. POS 02: Telehealth Provided Other than in Patient’s Home Descriptor: The location where health services and health-related services are provided or received through telecommunication technology. The patient is not located in their home when receiving health services or health-related services through telecommunication technology. 

    2. POS 10: Telehealth Provided in Patient’s Home Descriptor: The location where health services and health-related services are provided or received through telecommunication technology. The patient is located in their home when receiving health services or health-related services through telecommunication technology. 

    Links for more information can be found at https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Coding/place-of-service-codes/Place_of_Service_Code_Set .  These changes may be adopted bycommercial insurance; check with each carrier directly.

    Required In-Person Visits with Medicare Patients

    I have been tracking this difficult rule for the past year for the Clinical Social Work Association. It is unclear to me how it is going to be enforced. The most recent iteration came out earlier this month. 

    The rule was amended in the recent 2022 Physician Fee Schedule as follows: 

    “Section 123 of the CAA removed the geographic restrictions and added the home of the beneficiary as a permissible originating site for telehealth services furnished for the purposes of diagnosis, evaluation, or treatment of a mental health disorder. Section 123 requires for these services that there must be an in-person, non-telehealth service with the physician or practitioner within six months prior to the initial telehealth service and requires the Secretary to establish a frequency for subsequent in-person visits. We are implementing these statutory amendments, and finalizing that an in-person, non-telehealth visit must be furnished at least every 12 months for these services, that exceptions to the in-person visit requirement may be made based on beneficiary circumstances (with the reason documented in the patient’s medical record), and that more frequent visits are also allowed under our policy, as driven by clinical needs on a case-by-case basis.” 

    The whole rule can be found at https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/calendar-year-cy-2022-medicare-physician-fee-schedule-final-rule

    The "beneficiary circumstances" seem to offer a way to avoid seeing patients in person but this will need to be clarified by HHS. In any case, the time period has been extended from 6 months to 12 months for in-person meetings. 

    As for how to fight this rule, CSWA is working on a two-pronged approach. We encourage all mental health associations to oppose it through letters to HHS and CMS. All individual clinicians can oppose it by writing to our senators and representative about the chilling effect this rule will have on telemental health treatment, especially in this pandemic when emotional distress is high and meeting in person may be dangerous. 

    This will be a long-term fight in my view and there is no alternative to holding the government's feet to the fire.  

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

    Clinical Social Work Association 
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org 
    CSWA - "The National Voice for Clinical Social Work"

    Strengthening IDENTITY, Preserving INTEGRITY, Advocating PARITY

  • 05 Nov 2021 10:53 AM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    The announcement from CMS on rules for telemental health raised some questions which I will answer below:

    1. Does the new rule mean that LCSWs are able to freely use telemental health to see patients in states where we are not licensed? No. That is what CSWA is working on through the Compact.  All state restrictions about licensure still apply.  Check with the state social work Board if you wish to see a patient who resides in a state in which you are not licensed.  A few states still have relaxed reciprocity standards, but others are ending their willingness to extend the ability to practice without licensure.

    2. Does this mean that private insurers will also agree to coverage of telemental health and audio only psychotherapy? No. Private insurers often follow Medicare rules, but there is no guarantee.  There appeared to be some changes in the way that private insurers were going to cover telemental health before the rule was announced.  The rule may affect those changes and others going forward.  Check with individual insurers or have patients check.

    3. Does the state in which the patient resides in general still dictate the necessity of being licensed in their state to treat the patient? In general, yes.  Check with the state social work Board where the patient resides as noted in #1.

    4. Do you think the change in the CMS administration led to this positive outcome? There is no way of knowing for sure, but it is possible.

    5. Will this rule cover Medicaid as well as Medicare? All Medicaid decisions will be made by states, though this may encourage some states to cover telemental health in Medicaid.

    6. Will LCSWs still be required to see patients in person every six months as previously required? No, this requirement has now been changed to every 12 months.  CSWA will be working to eliminate this requirement as we did to eliminate the six month rule.
    One correction: the coverage of telemental health and audio only treatment will now be allowed until the end of 2023.  Another decision will be made about further coverage at that time.

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

    Clinical Social Work Association 
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

    CSWA - "The National Voice for Clinical Social Work"

    Strengthening IDENTITY, Preserving INTEGRITY, Advocating PARITY

    ============================================

    Good news from CMS.  Yesterday CMS announced the first group of many rules regarding the Physician Fee Schedule, which CSWA, and many of you, our members, commented on in August.  Our voices made a difference.  CMS will extend coverage of telemental health and audio only psychotherapy until the end of 2023.  This was a major goal of ours and CSWA is delighted.

    Now we need more clarity on eliminating the need to see patients in person every six months and the payment schedule for LCSWs in 2022.  CSWA will continue to provide information on these issues as it is available.

    Here is the statement issued by CMS (key statements in yellow outline).  For the original document, go to https://www.federalregister.gov/public-inspection/2021-23972/medicare-program-cy-2022-payment-policies-under-the-physician-fee-schedule-and-other-changes-to-part

    Expanding Use of Telehealth and Other Telecommunications Technologies for Behavioral Health Care

    The final rule makes significant strides in expanding access to behavioral health care – especially for traditionally underserved communities – by harnessing telehealth and other telecommunications technologies. In line with legislation enacted last year, CMS is eliminating geographic barriers and allowing patients in their homes to access telehealth services for diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of mental health disorders.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our current health care system and the need for new solutions to bring treatments to patients, wherever they are,” said Brooks-LaSure. “This is especially true for people who need behavioral health services, and the improvements we are enacting will give people greater access to telehealth and other care delivery options.”

    CMS is bringing care directly into patients’ homes by providing certain mental and behavioral health services via audio-only telephone calls. This means counseling and therapy services, including treatment of substance use disorders and services provided through Opioid Treatment Programs, will be more readily available to individuals, especially in areas with poor broadband infrastructure.

    In addition, for the first time outside of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), Medicare will pay for mental health visits furnished by Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers via telecommunications technology, including audio-only telephone calls, expanding access for rural and other vulnerable populations.

    Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this effort. Let me know if you have any questions.

     

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

    Clinical Social Work Association
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org


  • 03 Nov 2021 5:26 PM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    Good news from CMS.  Yesterday CMS announced the first group of many rules regarding the Physician Fee Schedule, which CSWA, and many of you, our members, commented on in August.  Our voices made a difference.  CMS will extend coverage of telemental health and audio only psychotherapy indefinitely.  This was a major goal of ours and CSWA is delighted.

    Now we need more clarity on eliminating the need to see patients in person every six months and the payment schedule for LCSWs in 2022.  CSWA will continue to provide information on these issues as it is available.

    Here is the statement issued by CMS (key statements in yellow outline).  For the original document, go to cmslists@subscriptions.cms.hhs.gov :

    Expanding Use of Telehealth and Other Telecommunications Technologies for Behavioral Health Care

    The final rule makes significant strides in expanding access to behavioral health care – especially for traditionally underserved communities – by harnessing telehealth and other telecommunications technologies. In line with legislation enacted last year, CMS is eliminating geographic barriers and allowing patients in their homes to access telehealth services for diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of mental health disorders.

    “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the gaps in our current health care system and the need for new solutions to bring treatments to patients, wherever they are,” said Brooks-LaSure. “This is especially true for people who need behavioral health services, and the improvements we are enacting will give people greater access to telehealth and other care delivery options.”

    CMS is bringing care directly into patients’ homes by providing certain mental and behavioral health services via audio-only telephone calls. This means counseling and therapy services, including treatment of substance use disorders and services provided through Opioid Treatment Programs, will be more readily available to individuals, especially in areas with poor broadband infrastructure.

    In addition, for the first time outside of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), Medicare will pay for mental health visits furnished by Rural Health Clinics and Federally Qualified Health Centers via telecommunications technology, including audio-only telephone calls, expanding access for rural and other vulnerable populations.

    Thanks again to everyone who contributed to this effort. Let me know if you have any questions.

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice    
    Clinical Social Work Association  
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org


  • 30 Aug 2021 10:58 AM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    As you know, each August CMS puts out changes to the rules that govern the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS).  These changes affect our practices and CSWA sends comments on the rules, which go into effect the following year.

    Below please find the comments which CSWA has sent on the PFS 2022, a 1747-page document.  CSWA chose three areas for comment, Mental Health Disparities, Telemental Health Coverage, and Telemental Health Parity in reimbursement.  CSWA encourages all members to send their individual comments on any or all of these areas.  CMS is asking that members not send a standard message.  Use any of the language in the CSWA comments for your own comments.  Send them by September 13, 2021, to https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/07/23/2021-14973/medicare-program-cy-2022-payment-policies-under-the-physician-fee-schedule-and-other-changes-to-part .

    As always, let me know when you have sent your comments and send a copy.  Thanks for your help.

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice  
    Clinical Social Work Association  
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org


    August 27, 2021

    Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
    Department of Health and Human Services
    RE: Comment on Physician Fee Schedule 2022
    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/07/23/2021-14973/medicare-program-cy-2022-payment-policies-under-the-physician-fee-schedule-and-other-changes-to-part

    The Clinical Social Work Association (CSWA) is pleased to have the opportunity to submit comments on the proposed Physician Fee Schedule for 2022 (PFS2022).  We also want to take this opportunity to thank CMS for covering mental health treatment provided through videoconferencing and audio-only delivery during this Public Health Emergency (PHE).

    We will be commenting on three major areas of the bill which are of particular interest to Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSWs). These areas are 1) addressing mental health disparities; 2) telemental health continuation after the Public Health Emergency; and 3) reimbursement parity between in-person mental health treatment and telemental health treatment.

    Mental Health Disparities

    The disparities between mental health access, treatment, and outcomes for white populations as compared to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), have been well-documented and it is past time to address the root causes.  CSWA is pleased to see the request in the PFS2022 for comment on p. 434: “Solicit comments on addressing health disparities and promoting health equity.” 

    Health disparities are costly:  approximately 30% of direct medical costs for African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans are excess costs due to these health inequities, and the economy loses an estimated $309 billion per year due to the direct and indirect costs of disparities. (Nov. 2012, Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation)

    A major root cause driving these inequities lies in Social Determinants of Health (SDOH).  According to the peer reviewed journal,

    Health Affairs, disparities may be rooted in differences in insurance coverage, inequalities in access to good providers, or discrimination by health professionals in the clinical encounter.  Disparities may be the result of years of institutional racism, lack of trust due to years of broken promises, cultural traditions, and more.” (Health Affairs, 2008, https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.393)

    When it comes to mental health treatment, whites are more likely to receive psychotherapy and medication on an out-patient basis, whereas BIPOC citizens are more likely to be referred to in-patient treatment for the same conditions

    (Health Affairs, 2015, https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.27.2.393
    Yet, the rates of depression are lower in Blacks (24.6%) and Hispanics (19.6%) than in whites (34.7%). Correspondingly, depression in African Americans and Hispanics tends to be more persistent, likely due at least in part to difficulties accessing effective and affordable out-patient care.

    Further, since untreated mental health issues tend to exacerbate physical health issues, treatment costs related to physical health tend to rise as well.  Simultaneously, outcomes become less hopeful, and may come to include disability, addiction, homelessness, and incarceration - again disproportionately affecting BIPOC communities.

    Indeed, the prison population has become the largest group of people with diagnosable mental health disorders, between 45-60% (When Did Prisons Become Acceptable Mental Health Facilities?, Stanford Law School, 2017.)   Lack of critical mental health care during incarceration has been persistent, as are the difficulties accessing mental health care through Medicaid upon release. Here, then, is another example of the SDOH role in exacerbating disparities, especially given the excessively high numbers of brown and Black people incarcerated in the US.

    CSWA would be happy to provide additional data on how SDOH factors are connected to mental health disparities and need to be addressed.

    Telemental Health Coverage

    When the Public Health Emergency was implemented in March, 2020, most LCSWs began providing psychotherapy through virtual telemental health (videoconferencing) and audio-only (telephone).  The decision by CMS to cover these new delivery systems during the PHE has been crucial to the wellbeing of Medicare beneficiaries living in areas without local mental health services or accessible transportation to more remote care.  Previously unable to obtain in-person psychotherapy, they finally have the needed treatment because of the new delivery systems.  It is unrealistic to expect them to begin treatment in person when the PHE ends unless SDOH transportation and other barriers to access are addressed.

    CSWA therefore recommends that all three forms of treatment delivery be approved and reimbursed at the rate being paid for in-person treatment.   LCSWs who provide services through videoconferencing and audio-only are working as hard, if not harder, than when they see patients in person.  Further, even the requirement that patients being treated via videoconferencing and audio-only must be seen in person every six months is highly problematic; certainly it would be a huge barrier to seeing patients who can ONLY access treatment through virtual means.

    The elderly - the main group of Medicare beneficiaries - are chronically underserved when it comes to mental health treatment.  Not all Medicare beneficiaries have access to Rural Health Centers and Federally Qualified Health Centers; many had the opportunity to establish virtual  psychotherapy relationships with independent LCSWs as a result of the PHE.  However, the biannual in-person requirement has created a barrier to virtual treatment.  If it is not eliminated, these beneficiaries may well find themselves back among the “chronically underserved”.

    Telemental Health Parity

    As noted in the Proposed Rule, “the estimated cost impact of this proposal is unclear, the proposed requirement that a modifier be appended to the claim to identify that the service was furnished via audio-only communication technology would allow us to closely monitor utilization and address any potential concerns regarding overutilization through future rulemaking” (p.1198).  This comment applies to videoconferencing as well.

     In fact, LCSWs and other mental health clinicians have been involved in an in vivo application of these two delivery systems throughout the pandemic.  We ask that this data be collected and analyzed to see how much these services are being utilized and how their use affects cost offsets of medical conditions before CMS moves forward on plans to limit or eliminate them.

    CSWA recommends that all three forms of treatment delivery be approved until CMS completes such a study, and that all three be reimbursed at the rate being paid for in-person treatment.   LCSWs providing mental health treatment through videoconferencing and audio-only means are working just as hard, if not harder, providing professional clinical treatment virtually as when they provide services in person.

    LCSWs have been long been called the backbone of psychotherapy services, and with more than 250,000 licensees, LCSWs are the largest mental health provider group in the country.  However, as you know, LCSWs are reimbursed by Medicare at 25% less than psychologists for providing the same services, with the exact same CPT psychotherapy codes.  LCSWs have equivalent clinical training, experience, client overall satisfaction, and provide long-term relief of emotional problems.  The reimbursement disparity for LCSWs has not gone unnoticed and the number of LCSW Medicare providers has continually dropped. Lowering reimbursement for telemental health services would likely result in even fewer LCSW Medicare providers.

    CSWA hopes that these comments are helpful developing the Proposed Rule and would be happy to discuss them with you further.

    Sincerely,

    Kendra C. Roberson, PhD, LCSW, President  
    Clinical Social Work Association  
    kroberson@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

    Laura Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice  
    Clinical Social Work Association  
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org 


  • 29 Apr 2021 1:04 PM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    Many members have been asking questions about the Medicare coverage of telemental health.  This is an important topic because most commercial insurers follow Medicare policies regarding coverage of telemental health, as well as other coverage issues.

    Medicare has covered telemental health videoconferencing for our usual and customary psychotherapy codes since March, 2020, a major expansion of telehealth coverage.  Medicare also agreed to cover audio only psychotherapy in April of 2020.  Both were tied to the Public Health Emergency (PHE) being in effect.  The PHE was extended in three month increments until April of 2021 when CMS announced that telemental health videoconferencing would be extended until the end of 2021.  Audio only treatment would be covered as long as the PHE was in effect.  See https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Medicare-General-Information/Telehealth/Telehealth-Codes for more information.

    In other words, separation of telemental health videoconferencing and audio only coverage have been part of the expansion of psychotherapy coverage since the pandemic began.  The current intention from the current administration is that the PHE continue through 2021, which would make the difference between the two delivery systems moot.

    At this point, I believe that LCSWs can reasonably expect coverage of telemental health and audio only treatment to last through 2021.  There are several bills in Congress which would make this policy permanent.  Our Government Relations Committee is working hard to see one of these bills pass.  Stay tuned.

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

    Clinical Social Work Association
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org
    CSWA - "The National Voice for Clinical Social Work"

    Strengthening IDENTITY, Preserving INTEGRITY, Advocating PARITY


  • 19 Apr 2021 10:58 PM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    Good news on the Medicare fee-for-service sequestration front!  The 2% cut which was scheduled for April 14, 2021, has been suspended until December 31, 2021.  See the announcement from CMS below:

    The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act suspended the sequestration payment adjustment percentage of 2% applied to all Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) claims from May 1 through December 31, 2020.  The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, extended the suspension period to March 31, 2021. An Act to Prevent Across-the-Board Direct Spending Cuts, and for Other Purposes, signed into law on April 14, 2021, extends the suspension period to December 31, 2021.

    Medicare Administrative Contractors will:

    • Release any previously held claims with dates of service on or after April 1
    • Reprocess any claims paid with the reduction applied

    For more information, go to https://www.cms.gov/outreach-and-educationoutreachffsprovpartprogprovider-partnership-email-archive/2021-04-16-mlnc#_Toc69394754

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    Laura Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice
    Clinical Social Work Association 
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

  • 25 Mar 2021 10:37 AM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    Today CSWA had its first meeting with members of the Council of State Governments, sponsored by the Department of Defense. For more information, see the original post sent on March 15.

    The goal of building a compact for states that want to have reciprocity for clinical social workers was outlined.  This project will take approximately 12-16 months to develop and will then be presented to the legislatures in the states and jurisdictions. Therefore, this project will require at least 2-3 years to be implemented. 

    CSWA is very pleased to have the support of DoD and CSG. We will keep you you apprised of the progress of the compact development.

    Laura

    ====================================================

    March 15, 2021

    Dear CSWA Member,

    We are delighted to inform you that we will be working with the US Depa­­­­­­rtment of Defense, National Center of Interstate Compacts and other key social work stakeholders to establish clinical social work reciprocity across states.  This effort has become increasingly important as we work utilizing telemental health; the requirement that we be licensed in the state where the patient is located is burdensome and amounts to restraint of trade.

    Below is the message that CSWA received today from the US Department of Defense:

    We are excited to inform you that the U.S. Department of Defense has selected your profession to receive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments to develop an interstate compact for occupational licensing portability. Based on the applications received from three organizations representing social work, DoD believes the Association of Social Work Boards is best suited to lead compact development efforts on behalf of the profession.  

    However, we believe that CSWA will be a crucial stakeholder in developing a compact for social workers. CSG would like to invite representatives from CSWA to join the compact technical assistance group that will engage in compact development activities jointly with ASWB and other social work regulatory stakeholders.  

    Thank you for your commitment to removing barriers to multistate practice for licensed practitioners. We will be in touch in the coming days to set up a call with our team at CSG. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. 

    Sincerely, 

    National Center for Interstate Compacts 
    The Council of State Governments 
    1776 Avenue of the States, Lexington, KY 40511 

    CSWA will keep you informed on the progress of this helpful project.

    Kendra C. Roberson, PhD, LCSW | President & Education Committee, Social Work Consultant 
    president@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

    Laura Groshong, LICSW, CSWA Director, Policy and Practice
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org


  • 19 Mar 2021 9:00 PM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    CSWA is pleased to send you the announcement from Sen.  Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY),  and Rep Barbara Lee (D-CA) about the re-introduction of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021

    This may be the year that this bill is finally passed with the exponential increase in mental health needs due to the COVID pandemic.  See the text of the announcement below.

    Please send the following message to your members of Congress, using your own words if you wish, at https://www.congress.gov/members?q={%22congress%22:117}&searchResultViewType=expanded :

    “I am a member of the Clinical Social Work Association and a constituent.  Please consider becoming a co-sponsor of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021.  As a clinical social worker, I have been working twice as hard during the pandemic, learning to work through telemental health, and handle a substantially increased caseload.  However, I am still being paid 25% less by Medicare than other mental health clinicians. I need your help to give clinical social workers, the backbone of the mental health treatment community, fair compensation and recognition of the way we are helping to maintain the mental health of our citizens.  Thanks for your consideration.”

    Thanks for your help.  As always, let me know when you have sent your messages.

    Laura W. Groshong, LICSW, Director, Policy and Practice

    Clinical Social Work Association
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org
    CSWA - "The National Voice for Clinical Social Work"

    Strengthening IDENTITY, Preserving INTEGRITY, Advocating PARITY

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    March 18, 2021
    Eliza Duckworth (Stabenow)
    Eliza_Duckworth@Stabenow.senate.gov

    Barrasso Press Office (Barrasso)
    Press@barrasso.senate.gov

    Sean Ryan (Lee)
    Sean.Ryan@mail.house.gov


    Senators Stabenow, Barrasso and Representative Lee Introduce Bill to Increase Seniors’ Access to Behavioral Health Services

    WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), John Barrasso (R-WY) and U.S. Representative Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) today reintroduced their bill to increase seniors’ access to behavioral health services. The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021 would ensure clinical social workers can provide their full range of services to Medicare beneficiaries and increase the Medicare program’s reimbursement rate for clinical social workers, aligning it with that of other non-physician providers.

    “Increased stress and isolation during the COVID-19 crisis has resulted in an urgent need for behavioral health services, especially among our seniors,” said Senator Stabenow. “Seniors should be able to receive care from the provider of their choice, and this bill ensures that clinical social workers are among those providers.”

    “As a doctor, I know how vital it is for seniors to have access to mental health services,” said Senator Barrasso. “In particular, for those living in rural communities, finding a mental health provider is challenging. This is why I am proud to support bipartisan solutions that help more patients get the care they need.” 

    “As a former psychiatric social worker, I know the critical high-quality mental health services and care social workers provide in our communities,” said Congresswoman Barbara Lee. “Especially during a pandemic impacting the mental health of many, it is critical that we ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to the essential mental health services provided by clinical social workers on a daily basis. I’m proud to join fellow social worker Senator Debbie Stabenow in reintroducing this critical bill and working to expand mental health services for all.”

    The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021 would increase the Medicare payment reimbursement rate for clinical social workers from 75 percent to 85 percent of the physician fee schedule. This would align Medicare payments for clinical social workers with that of other non-physician providers such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants. This new payment structure would incentivize trained and licensed professionals to care for more seniors in their communities. The bill also ensures clinical social workers can provide psychosocial services to patients in nursing homes, and the full range of Health and Behavior Assessment and Intervention (HBAI) services within their scope of practice.

    The Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2021 is supported by Aging Life Care Association, American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare, Clinical Social Work Association, Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy, Council on Social Work Education, Gerontological Society of America, National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors, National Association of Social Workers, National Association for Rural Mental Health, the International OCD Foundation, and the Jewish Federations of North America.

    “There is great need and a demand for mental health and behavioral health services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially among individuals of color and underserved communities who are disproportionately impacted,” said Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW, NASW Chief Executive Officer. “This legislation ensures a sufficient number of clinical social workers will be there to provide much-needed support and services to Medicare beneficiaries.”

    For years, Senator Stabenow has been a champion for increasing access to behavioral health and addiction services. She created a new permanent funding system through the creation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, which provide a comprehensive set of high-quality behavioral health services. Her bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act secured the most significant expansion of community mental health and addiction services in decades.

     

    ###

  • 16 Mar 2021 2:46 AM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    We are delighted to inform you that we will be working with the US Depa­­­­­­rtment of Defense, National Center of Interstate Compacts and other key social work stakeholders to establish clinical social work reciprocity across states.  This effort has become increasingly important as we work utilizing telemental health; the requirement that we be licensed in the state where the patient is located is burdensome and amounts to restraint of trade.

    Below is the message that CSWA received today from the US Department of Defense:

    We are excited to inform you that the U.S. Department of Defense has selected your profession to receive technical assistance from The Council of State Governments to develop an interstate compact for occupational licensing portability. Based on the applications received from three organizations representing social work, DoD believes the Association of Social Work Boards is best suited to lead compact development efforts on behalf of the profession.  

    However, we believe that CSWA will be a crucial stakeholder in developing a compact for social workers. CSG would like to invite representatives from CSWA to join the compact technical assistance group that will engage in compact development activities jointly with ASWB and other social work regulatory stakeholders.  

    Thank you for your commitment to removing barriers to multistate practice for licensed practitioners. We will be in touch in the coming days to set up a call with our team at CSG. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have any questions. 

    Sincerely, 

    National Center for Interstate Compacts 
    The Council of State Governments
    1776 Avenue of the States
    Lexington, KY 40511 

    CSWA will keep you informed on the progress of this helpful project.

    Kendra C. Roberson, PhD, LCSW | President & Education Committee, Social Work Consultant 
    president@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

    Laura Groshong, LICSW, CSWA Director, Policy and Practice
    lwgroshong@clinicalsocialworkassociation.org

  • 26 Feb 2021 10:05 AM | CSWA Administrator (Administrator)


    You may have been hearing about part of a new law called Section 123 contained in the 1,000-page Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 (CAA) at the very end of 2020.  This Section requires all mental health clinicians who are working virtually to see their patients at least once every six months in-person, once the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends.

    Meeting in-person would of course be dangerous in the time of COVID which is why we are working through videoconferencing and audio only in the first place.  There has been a lot of concern about the implementation of Section 123.  An article from the law firm of Foley and Lardner about Section123 is being circulated which is somewhat inaccurate, as it does not highlight the start of Section 123 only when the PHE ends. Here is what CSWA believes Section 123 means at this point:

    • The in-person requirement does not go into effect until AFTER HHS declares the Public Health Emergency has ended, which at this point is April 20, 2021, unless extended. 
    • Applying this rule solely to mental health treatment and no other medical services violates the mental health parity law.   
    • Inserting this rule into an appropriations law that has nothing to do with mental health treatment is duplicitous and misguided.

    Please know that CSWA is working in collaboration with the American Psychological Association to eliminate this section.  A bill is being drafted and we are confident that Section 123 can be changed.

    CSWA will also work to find out why HHS inserted this section into the CAA and will let you know what we find.

    Let me know if you have any other questions.

    Laura Groshong, Director, Policy and Practice


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