Congressman Joe Kennedy

Representing the 4th District of Massachusetts


Congressman Joe Kennedy working for Massachusetts constituents


May 27, 2016
Press Release
Bill would increase reimbursement rates; incentivize providers to expand access to care

Washington, D.C. – With millions of Americans struggling to access and afford basic mental health services, Congressman Joe Kennedy III introduced a bill to increase the federal Medicaid reimbursement rate for mental and behavioral health care services.  Dubbed the “Medicaid Bump,” Kennedy’s bill would enhance the federal match for new, state-based mental health spending.
Medicaid is currently the single largest payer of mental health services in the United States. However, stubbornly low reimbursement rates have impeded gains made under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, making it difficult for providers to accept patients. The impact on access to care has been profound: Nearly half of all counties in the United states have no practicing psychologists, psychiatrists or social workers. 
“Insufficient Medicaid reimbursement rates have left gaping holes throughout our mental health system,” said Congressman Kennedy. “This systemic underinvestment has failed providers and left suffering patients out in the cold.  The Medicaid Bump will strengthen provider networks, incent critical state investment and help ensure Medicaid beneficiaries suffering from mental illness or substance use disorder have access to the treatment they need.”
Currently, states receive reimbursement rates between 50 and 75 percent, and mental health providers are among the lowest paid.  A 2011 study by the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare found “…a licensed professional social worker, requiring a Master’s degree and typically 2,000 hours of post-graduate experience, earned less than the manager of a fast food restaurant.  The median salary for a direct care worker in a 24-hour residential treatment center was $23,000 compared to $25,589, the median salary for an assistant manager at Burger King.” 
Under the Mental and Behavioral Health Care Bump Act, Medicaid would reimburse states for 90 percent of the cost of providing new mental and behavioral health services in excess of states’ certain 2016 spending. It would also require the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) to submit annual reports on the impact of the bump to payment rates and utilization of services.
Since being elected, Congressman Kennedy has been a vocal advocate for systemic reform of our mental health system and needed investment in the full continuum of care. He has focused on enforcement of mental health parity laws, expanded access to substance abuse treatment, and an improved reimbursement system for providers. Recently, Congressman Kennedy introduced the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act of 2015, which will hold health insurers accountable for providing adequate mental health benefits and increase transparency for consumers seeking coverage for mental illness and substance use disorders. Additionally, Congressman Kennedy’s bipartisan bill to update best practices for prescribers passed the House of Representatives earlier this month as part of a package of bills to address the opioid crisis. 

For Immediate Release:
May 27, 2016
Emily Kaufman (617) 332-3333
Dan Black (202) 225-5931

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