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​​​​​​​NASW Applauds Senators Stabenow, Barrasso, Chairman Wyden, Ranking Member Crapo and Finance Committee Members on historic markup

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), which represents the nation’s 750,000 social workers, on Nov. 8 lauded the Senate Finance Committee, and especially Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), our longtime champions and sponsors of the Improving Access to Mental Health Act of 2023 (S. 838), for advancing key social work priorities as part of the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act, which passed out of  committee. 

“We are grateful for their efforts to eliminate barriers to mental health care for seniors and for their recognition of the importance of clinical social worker (CSW) services,” said NASW CEO Anthony Estreet, PhD, MBA, LCSW-C.  

Section 102 of the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act would modify the definition of CSW services covered under Medicare Part B to include health behavior assessment and intervention (HBAI) services.  HBAI services address emotional and psychosocial concerns that arise from medical conditions unrelated to a mental health condition.  Such medical conditions might include diagnosis of cancer or exacerbation of multiple sclerosis.  

This provision would enhance Medicare beneficiaries’ access to mental health care by enabling CSWs to bill Medicare for HBAI services, codifying in law the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recent HBAI policy change included in the calendar year 2024 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule issued last week.  

Furthermore, Section 102 would increase Medicare beneficiaries’ access to mental health services in Skilled Nursing Facilities (SNFs) by enabling independent CSWs to bill Medicare Part B for services provided to beneficiaries receiving SNF services under Part A beginning January 1, 2026.  

“Social Workers are the largest providers of mental health services in the United States, and we are elated that the Senate Finance Committee took action this week to promote access to and continuity of care for Medicare beneficiaries. We thank Senator Stabenow for filing an amendment to reduce the payment disparity for CSWs by proposing to increase the current reimbursement rate from 75 percent to 85 percent of the Medicare physician fee schedule,” said Estreet.

NASW will continue to work with the Senate Finance Committee to ensure that Section 102 of the Better Mental Health Care, Lower-Cost Drugs, and Extenders Act advances through the legislative process in the strongest possible form. We are also  committed in our advocacy to Sen. Stabenow’s important amendment related to CSW reimbursement.  

NASW congratulates the Senate Finance Committee on this impactful and far-reaching legislation and looks forward to supporting enactment of these transformative policy changes for our profession and those we serve.

For more information, watch the Senate Finance Committee Hearing recording.

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW), in Washington, DC, is the largest membership organization of professional social workers. It promotes, develops, and protects the practice of social work and social workers. NASW also seeks to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through its advocacy.