In this issue

Advocating for essential benefits

Charged political climate creates dramatic backdrop for 2017 PLC.

By Cynthia Sturm, PhD

Cynthia Sturm The charged political climate in Washington, D.C., created a dramatic backdrop for the 2017 Practice Leadership Conference (PLC), “ Practice, Politics and Policy,” held March 4-7. APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine Nordal, PhD, welcomed 400 state psychology leaders to the Capitol. Invited speakers addressed ways to be an effective advocate for psychology at the legislative level as well as in organizational settings within health care. Multiple workshops provided updates on current trends in health care, legal and regulatory issues, as well as valuable time for honing skills in grassroots advocacy, and networking among state leaders.

Sustaining the Affordable Care Act

The night before our Capitol Hill visits, the American Health Care Act (ACA) was introduced by Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore, through the Energy and Commerce Committee. Of critical concern was the proposal to drop the essential health benefits mandate for insurers (including mental health and substance abuse) and the reduction of Medicaid benefits. As we arrived on the Hill Tuesday, March 8, the legislative offices were abuzz. Staffers were scrambling in response to the minute-to- minute needs for information during the process of intense legislative negotiations.

As of now, the ACA will continue, along with the essential health benefits mandate. However, continued vigilance and advocacy for mental health and substance abuse benefits is “essential.” We can expect continued efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, and challenges to parity for mental health benefits.

Medicare Mental Health Access Act (HR 1143/S 448)

“The ask” was for co-sponsors of the bill to include psychologists in the physician definition under Medicare. Psychologists are the only doctoral-level provider not included. While many of us treat Medicare patients independently in private sector settings, there are still oversight requirements for federally qualified health centers and other settings that means physicians must sign off on psychologists' work, increasing costs and decreasing access for recipients, especially in rural settings.

Check out the APA Center for Psychology and Health

At our Div. 31 midwinter meeting Elena Eisman, EdD, gave an update on the Center for Psychology and Health, created in 2013. The center's web site offers a wealth of practice information, including integrated care and health psychology continuing education and videos, quick links to professional practice guidelines, clinical guidelines and direct access to 700 articles.

Advocacy: What works?

  • Personally contact your legislators and build relationships.
  • Individualize your e-mails.
  • Make a specific “ask,” and describe your reasoning.
  • Tell your personal stories related to the bill.
  • If possible, provide information on the impact of a bill on the district.

APA Legislative Action Center

Visit the APA Legislative Action Center to make your voice heard to members of Congress and the current administration.

Do you know a member of Congress?

If you have a connection and would be willing to contact him or her to advocate for psychology please email me.