Payroll Tax Cut Hits Mental Health Funds
United Press International February 19, 2012
U.S. Medicare recipients receiving mental health outpatient services appear negatively affected by the payroll tax cut passed by Congress, psychologists said.
Katherine C. Nordal, executive director for professional practice of the American Psychological Association, said the cuts will reduce funding not only for psychotherapy outpatient services, but for behavioral health centers, state hospitals and private hospitals with mental and behavioral health units, resulting in fewer doctors providing therapy.
Medicare Part B covers outpatient services for mental health diagnosis and treatment as well as therapy services for in-patients at state and private hospitals. Medicare covers services provided by psychologists and other Medicare-approved providers.
The American Psychological Association estimated 3,080 psychologists who once participated in Medicare have left the program, and the new cuts might result in more psychologists leaving Medicare because of the low reimbursement rates.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services cut Medicare psychotherapy payment rates as part of its Five-Year Review in 2006. Since that time, four laws restoring 5 percent of the payment for psychotherapy services passed. At the end of 2011, Congress extended the payroll tax cut through February 2012 and included payment for psychotherapy services, Nordal said.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity often coexist with mental illness, and treatment of the mental illness can reduce the effects of these disorders, said Pamela S. Hyde, head of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.