Congress Told Parity Needed in Medicare

— Lyn Stoesen, News Staff


Jim FinleyNASW Senior Government Relations Associate Jim Finley moderated and presented information at a congressional briefing held in May to address the mental health needs of older adults.

The event, "Meeting the Mental Health Needs of an Aging America: Opportunities and Challenges for Federal Policy," was sponsored by NASW, the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the American Psychological Association and the Older Women's League. Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Olympia Snow (R-Me.) supported the event.

Finley's presentation focused on mental health parity in Medicare. He explained that Medicare copayments are higher for mental health services than other outpatient services, which he described as "an artifact of outmoded benefit design."

Finley noted that many organizations have supported policy changes for Medicare mental health services benefits. He said the 50 percent co-payment for these services "is a burden on some of the most vulnerable Medicare clients, seniors and persons with serious disabilities." He also cited U.S. Administration on Aging data showing that only half of older adults with mental disorders receive treatment.

"Congress is on the verge of enacting historic legislation mandating mental health parity for the privately insured," Finley said. Policy changes are needed to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries are not left behind.

The meeting, held May 15, also included presenters Charles F. Reynolds III of the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, who spoke on "Addressing the Geriatric Mental Health Workforce Crisis"; Toni C. Antonucci of the American Psychological Association, who spoke on "Promoting Positive Aging Through Integrated Health Care"; and Ashley B. Carson of the Older Women's League, who presented on "Older Americans' Mental Health Week: Educating Nursing Assistants about Mental Health."

NASW has partnered with the Older Women's League and other organizations to promote Older Americans' Mental Health Week by providing professional and general resources through a Website created by OWL, [N.B. As of September 2017 this page still exists, as do some local OWL chapters—the national OWL does not.]

More information about Older Americans Mental Health Week, as well as information on new Alzheimer's resources and financial resources for Medicaid beneficiaries, is available on NASW's Website.

Get more information at Practice: Aging.