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APA Practice Organization Action Alert: Pressure Needed on Psychology’s Priorities during August Recess

us_capitolThe American Psychological Association (APA) Practice Organization issued an Action Alert that calls for psychologists to pressure Congress during August recess. I have obtained the letter sent to members and received permission to republish the announcement in its entirety. Please check the end of this review to download the entire announcement complete with the exact steps psychologists should take along with suggested letters that need to be sent to specific U.S. Senators and Representatives.

Here is the APA Practice Organization announcement:

As you know, the Senate and House have been hard at work on legislation that would affect Medicare reimbursement as part of comprehensive health care reform.

Earlier this summer, the three key House committees of jurisdiction, the Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means Committees, included psychology’s top priority – a two-year extension of the 5% psychology payment restoration – in their joint draft of health care reform legislation. I am pleased to report to you that over the past few weeks, each committee has passed its version of the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200), and each has included the restoration extension. The bills would also prevent the 21% Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cut from taking effect in 2010 and provide an estimated 1% update in provider payments in 2010. Next the House Rules Committee is expected to merge the three bills into one final version for consideration on the House floor in September.

On the Senate side, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed its Affordable Health Choices Act (unnumbered bill) on July 15. The bill did not contain any Medicare provisions due to the committee’s jurisdiction, but it is very favorable for psychology, including broad provisions for care integration fully incorporating mental and behavioral health providers and required coverage of mental health and substance use benefits in health plans available through a national insurance exchange.

With the Senate scheduled to adjourn on August 7, attention has focused on the Finance Committee, which is currently in the midst of bipartisan negotiations in an effort to produce a health care reform/Medicare bill that can pass in the Senate. With your grassroots advocacy assistance, we have been keeping the pressure on negotiators and other members of the committee to ensure the restoration extension is included in any compromise.

During the August recess, your Senators and Representative need to hear from you that Congress should pass comprehensive health care reform legislation that includes the 5% psychology payment restoration extension and fully integrates psychologists and psychological services into the delivery system.

This Action Alert contains two requests:

• Action by psychologists across America through the Legislative Action Center and
• Action by Federal Advocacy Coordinators and key contact psychologists through in-district meetings, town hall meetings and quality calls

Click here to urge your Senators and Representative to include Psychology’s priorities in Medicare legislation by September 4

If you are not able to reach the Legislative Action Center from the above link, please paste this address in your browser: http://capwiz.com/apapractice/issues/alert/?alertid=13835456.

Grassroots feedback is extremely important to our advocacy efforts, so we would very much appreciate it if you would e-mail ([email protected]) or fax (202-336-5797) us any substantive responses (other than auto-responses) you receive from your Senators or Representative.

Targets:

All U.S. Senators and Representatives

Message:

I am writing as a psychologist and constituent to urge you to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation that includes an extension of the 5% payment restoration to mental health services previously cut as a result of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) “5-year review” regulation. I am pleased that all three House committees of jurisdiction have passed versions of H.R. 3200 that include this important provision in Section 1309.

Extending the psychologist payment restoration is critical to protecting access to Medicare mental health services. Psychologists and social workers provide almost all of the Medicare psychotherapy and testing services, but many have indicated that they may have to reduce their caseloads or leave the Medicare program if they are faced with these reimbursement cuts. This provision must be extended through December 2011 until the next 5-year review.

Health care reform should also integrate mental and behavioral health into primary care and other health care services for persons across the lifespan. In particular, psychologists should be recognized as vital members of interdisciplinary health care teams. Psychologists are in primary and integrated care settings now, providing patient-centered mental and behavioral health services to treat and prevent a range of concerns in children, teens and adults, leading to better outcomes for patients. I am pleased that the bill reported by the Senate HELP Committee includes broad provisions for care integration.

Congress has a tremendous opportunity to pass comprehensive health care reform legislation that will provide coverage for the un- and under-insured, reduce costs and improve the quality of health care Americans receive. Please support health care reform that extends the 5% payment restoration to mental health services in Medicare and fully integrates psychologists and psychological services in our health care system.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Action by FACs:

Mobilize key psychologists to urge targeted legislators to include Psychology’s priorities in Medicare legislation by September 4

During the August recess Senators and Representatives will be paying more attention than usual to the concerns of constituents, which will provide us with an excellent opportunity to deliver the critically important message on Psychology’s priorities on their home turf. In consultation with your regional field team member (David Hill, Ph.D. or Nan Klein, Ph.D.), please coordinate key psychologists to engage their targeted legislators in at least one of the following ways:

• In-district Meetings – Request or coordinate a key psychologist to request an in-district meeting with the targeted legislator. Start by calling the legislator’s scheduler and informing him/her that you are from the __________ (SPTA) psychological association and would like to set up an appointment with the legislator in the district office to discuss Medicare and health care reform. Please be aware that the legislator may have separate schedulers for the Hill and the district. Your regional field team member can provide you with the scheduler’s contact information and prepare you and participants in advance of the meeting.

• Town Hall Meetings – Attend or recruit a key psychologist to attend the targeted legislator’s town hall meeting. Most town hall meetings provide the opportunity for constituents to speak about their concerns. Make the compelling case for Medicare and health care reform by explaining the real difference it will make for your patients. Your regional field team member will provide you with a list of currently scheduled town hall meetings.

• Quality Calls – Coordinate at least one key psychologist who has professional, political or personal relationships with the targeted legislator’s office to call their contact.

Many Federal Advocacy Coordinators have already identified key psychologists for the targeted offices, while some others may not have. Key psychologists may include previous Hill visit participants during the State Leadership Conference. If you have not yet identified key psychologists for your targeted offices, now is a great time to identify and work with constituent psychologists to build new relationships with their elected officials.

Please keep Jeff Cook and your regional field team member apprised of your progress, including names and information for key psychologists and staffers, dates, the nature of interactions, and any feedback or questions from staffers, which we may share with our allies on the Hill.

Targets: All U.S. Senators and the following members of the House Rules Committee

• California – Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-18) and Doris Matsui (D-05)
• Colorado – Reps. Ed Perlmutter (D-07) and Jared Polis (D-02)
• Florida – Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-23)
• Maine – Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-01)
• Massachusetts – Rep. James McGovern (D-03)
• New York – Rep. Michael Arcuri (D-24) and Chairwoman Louise Slaughter (D-29)

Senate Message:

I am a practicing psychologist in __________ (city/town), __________ (state) and I see patients…. (share a little bit about the type, number of patients). My patients desperately need the enactment of comprehensive health care reform that will build on last year’s passage of mental health parity and fully integrate psychologists and psychological services in primary care and our overall health care system. Mental health services are also extremely important for Medicare beneficiaries, and the 5% psychotherapy payment restoration should be extended through 2011 to ensure our nation’s elderly continue to have access to quality services. Please weigh in with your colleagues on the Finance Committee in support of integrating psychologists into primary care and extending the 5% psychotherapy payment restoration.

House Message:

I am a practicing psychologist in __________ (city/town), __________ (state) and I see patients…. (share a little bit about the type, number of patients). My patients desperately need the enactment of comprehensive health care reform that will build on last year’s passage of mental health parity and fully integrate psychologists and psychological services in primary care and our overall health care system. Mental health services are also extremely important for Medicare beneficiaries, and the 5% psychotherapy payment restoration should be extended through 2011 to ensure our nation’s elderly continue to have access to quality services. Please work in your position on the Rules Committee to ensure that the final House bill integrates psychologists into primary care and extends the 5% psychotherapy payment restoration.

Background

On March 4, Psychology leaders from throughout the country took messages about our legislative priorities to over 335 meetings on Capitol Hill during the APAPO State Leadership Conference. Our government relations team has prepared these fact sheets on Psychology’s priorities:

• “Congress Should Protect Medicare Mental Health Payment” (available here)

• “Fully Integrate Mental Health Services in Health Care Reform” (available here)

• “Congress Should Ensure That Psychologists’ Services Are Key in Primary Care Initiatives” (available here)

Marilyn Richmond, J.D.
Assistant Executive Director for Government Relations
American Psychological Association Practice Organization

Download the APA Practice Organization Action Alert here.

Reprinted with Permission: APA Practice Organization

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