Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan Co-Sponsors Mental Health Bill Benefitting Seniors

May 30, 2019
Press Release
Would Add 200,000 Mental Health Professionals to Medicare. May is Mental Health Awareness Month

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan announced today he has co-sponsored bipartisan legislation to expand access to mental health resources for seniors. The Mental Health Access Improvement Act would allow marriage and family therapists and mental health counselors to provide services under Medicare.

Noting May is Mental Health Awareness Month, Buchanan stressed the importance of ensuring that seniors receive access to treatment from a broader range of qualified mental health providers. The bill would increase access by adding approximately 200,000 mental health professionals to the Medicare program.   

“Expanding access to mental health treatment is critical for improving health outcomes,” Buchanan said. “This commonsense legislation would increase Medicare’s availability of mental health providers throughout the nation. I urge the House and Senate to support America’s seniors and send this bill to the president’s desk.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 20 percent of Americans age 55 and older experience some kind of mental health concern. Meanwhile, the Health Resources and Services Administration found that there are more than 5,000 Mental Health Professionals Shortage Areas throughout the U.S.

Currently, only psychiatrists, psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurses are eligible to provide mental health services under Medicare. While mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists hold commensurate training and education, they cannot be reimbursed by Medicare and thus their services are more costly and out of reach for many seniors. This legislation closes that loophole by expanding availability of these professionals to Medicare beneficiaries.

Buchanan represents over 220,000 Social Security recipients in the nation’s eighth-oldest congressional district.

Reps. John Katko (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA) introduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Barrasso (R-WY) introduced companion legislation in the Senate.