It was a pleasure to ‘meet’ with many of you virtually this weekend about the changes to our practices in the time of COVID-19 which has restricted our in-office practices. I hope the discussions about how to move to telemental health, the confusion regarding coverage by insurers and how to code for our services, and many other issues were helpful to you.
One of the topics we talked about was advocacy to get Medicare – as well as private insurers – to cover telephonic sessions. To accomplish this goal we will need an all-out effort, not just to CMS and HHS, but to members of Congress, state legislators, and state Insurance Commissioners. Use your own words to convey the following message:
“I am a constituent and a member of the Clinical Social Work Association. I have patients who are unable to meet with me in person for psychotherapy because of the COVID-19 crisis and do not have access to a smart phone or computer. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have not expanded coverage of psychotherapy to telephonic sessions, only videoconferencing; however, the only way I can provide services to these beneficiaries is by telephone.
Some enlightened insurers like Cigna and Aetna have already allowed temporary coverage of telephonic psychotherapy sessions. Some states such as Maryland, Texas, and Ohio have also required temporary coverage of telephonic psychotherapy sessions by private insurers.
Please tell CMS [and/or private insurers for state legislators and Insurance Commissioners] to approve coverage of telephonic psychotherapy sessions, sorely needed in these fraught times, for Medicare beneficiaries [and other enrollees privately insured] who may be isolated, emotionally fragile, and in need of mental health services."
You can find contact information for members of Congress at https://www.house.gov/representatives and https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm . You can find email addresses for your state legislators and Insurance Commissioners by going to your state websites.
Finally, send a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma and HHS Secretary Alex Azar at the addresses below:
The Honorable Seema Verma
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
200 Independence Avenue, S.W. 200 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201 Washington, D.C. 20201
The Honorable Alex Azar
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
Washington, D.C. 20201
This is a lot of work, but we need to help the millions of patients who have lost their ability to get psychotherapy because they cannot get coverage for telephone sessions.
As always, please let me know when you have sent your messages.
Stay healthy and let me know if you have any other questions.
Clinical Social Work AssociationThe National Voice of Clinical Social WorkStrengthening IDENTITY | Preserving INTEGRITY | Advocating PARITY
PO Box 105Granville, Ohio 43023