Medicare will allow mental health counselors, as well as marriage and family therapists, to provide services starting in January 2024, The Washington Post reports. Medicare will also add up to 19 hours a week of intensive outpatient care.
Until now, Medicare has only covered mental health services provided by psychiatrists, psychologists, licensed clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses. But 45% of psychiatrists and 54% of psychologists do not participate in Medicare. Many cite low payments and bureaucratic hassles. The nation’s 400,000 marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors make up more than 40% of the licensed mental health workforce. Experts say the change will be especially helpful in rural areas. Other changes include improving navigation and peer support services for those with severe mental illness and expanding mobile crisis services.
Experts say questions remain, including whether Medicare will pay mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists enough so they actually accept Medicare patients. They also wonder whether Medicare Advantage plans will add marriage and family therapists, mental health counselors and substance use disorder specialists to their networks of authorized mental health providers.