Announcements

The SCMHCA Legislative Committee makes every effort to stay up-to-date with legislative developments that impact mental health counselors. Below are the updates related to COVID-19, telehealth, license portability and Medicare inclusion.

Telehealth

H.R.1301- Mental Health Telemedicine Expansion Act

This bill excludes certain mental health telehealth services from specified requirements under Medicare, including originating site requirements.

Effective for services starting March 6, 2020 and for the duration of the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Medicare will make payments for telehealth services furnished to patients in broader circumstances.  In addition, the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG) is providing flexibility for healthcare providers to reduce or waive cost-sharing for telehealth visits paid by federal healthcare programs.  For more information, go to:  https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet

To track progress of this bill, go to:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/1301?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22%5C%22mental+health%5C%22%22%5D%7D&r=2&s=6

H.B. 23- Telehealth.Effective July 1st, 2019- Creates section 456.47, Florida Statutes, which allows out-of-state providers to practice telehealth services to patients in Florida, establishes standards of practice for telehealth providers, registration of out-of-state providers, venue requirements and exemptions.

On March 16, 2020, Pursuant to Executive Order 20-52, the Florida Department of Health expanded services provided through enhanced telehealth, including tele-behavioral health. Enhancements include relaxing FL licensure through a waiver of out-of-state licensing requirements.

Find the most up-to-date guidance, including Medicaid waivers and instructions, here: https://www.setrc.us/learn/overview.html

To read the Florida Medicaid Healthcare Alert regarding telemedicine for behavioral health providers, go to: https://ahca.myflorida.com/Medicaid/pdffiles/provider_alerts/2020_03/Medicaid_Telemedicine_Guidance_20200318.pdf

To view a summary of this bill, go to:

https://www.flsenate.gov/PublishedContent/Session/2019/BillSummary/Health_HP0023hp_0023.pdf

Medicare Parity

S. 286/H.R. 945- Mental Health Access Improvement Act of 2019

This Medicare Parity bill provides for coverage of marriage and family therapist services and mental health counselor services under Medicare.  The bill was introduced on 01/31/2019, and reintroduced on January 31st, 2020, by Senator Barrasso (R-WY) and Senator Stabenow (D-MI).  The same bill — H.R. 945 — was reintroduced and sponsored again by Representative Thompson (D-CA) and Representative Katko (R-NY) in the House. 

On April 21, the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) released a report recommending mental health counselors be added to the list of Medicare providers, highlighting how the report’s policy recommendations offer solutions to the challenges raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

AMCHA urges counselors to legislators today and ask them to include our Medicare bills in the next COVID-19 package.  For more information and sample letters, go to:

https://www.amhca.org/advocacy/medicare

To track progress of this bill in senate, go to:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/286?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22S.+286%22%5D%7D&s=6&r=1

To track progress of this bill in the house, go to:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/945?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+945%22%5D%7D&s=4&r=1

Resources for Professional Counselors

H.R.266 – Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act

This bill responds to the COVID-19 (i.e., coronavirus disease 2019) outbreak by providing additional funding for small business loans, health care providers, and COVID-19 testing.

For more information, go to:

https://www.amhca.org/blogs/joel-miller/2020/04/29/new-stimulus-package-aimed-at-small-businesses-and

To track progress of this bill, go to:

https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/266/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22H.R.+266%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=1

Talkspace

Talkspace is providing free therapy for medical and health care workers, first responders, and state employees on a first-come, first-serve basis. The company connects individual users with a network through an easy-to-use and HIPAA-compliant web and mobile platform. In addition to therapy, Talkspace launched a series of free, therapist-led Facebook support groups to address anxiety relating to COVID-19, and a COVID-19 channel on Instagram (IG). These platforms include therapists, weekly therapist IG LIVES, mental health check-ins, and content sharing.

Weekly Health Care Provider Telephone Conference Call

To address all the questions from health care providers around the state, the Department of Health has instituted a new format for the weekly health care provider telephone conference call. Participants are asked to email questions in advance to Provider.COVID19@flhealth.gov no later than close of business on the Monday preceding the call. All participants will be muted during these calls to help streamline information delivery. The State Surgeon General, Dr. Scott Rivkees, in collaboration with Secretary Mary Mayhew from the Agency for Health Care Administration, will provide updates from the Department of Health on the COVID-19 pandemic response efforts, provide a briefing from the Agency for Health Care Administration, offer updates from other state agencies and address questions submitted from our health care providers. If you are interested in joining this weekly telephone conference call, please see the call-in information below:

Date: Every Tuesday
Time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Call-In Number: 888-585-9008
Conference Room ID: 208-305-233
Submit Questions in Advance: 
Provider.COVID19@flhealth.gov