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First look: Bipartisan behavioral health access bill

Sep 26, 2023

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

A bipartisan group of six House lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a plan aimed at integrating behavioral health services for Medicare beneficiaries in a primary care setting.

Why it matters: It's part of a broader trend of rolling mental health care into primary care practices, but aimed specifically at seniors.

Details: The bill is cosponsored by Reps. Michelle Steel, Lizzie Fletcher, Gus Bilirakis, August Pfluger, Susie Lee and Dan Kildee.

  • It encourages the integration of behavioral health services by increasing Medicare reimbursement rates via specific CPT codes for three years.
  • The increased reimbursement rates are supposed to help offset the startup costs of integrating mental health care into doctors' offices.
  • The bill would also make the Health and Human Services secretary create quality measurement reporting requirements for integrating behavioral health with primary care.

Of note: A Senate version of the legislation was introduced in April by Sens. Catherine Cortez-Masto and John Cornyn.

The big picture: 20% of people ages 65 and older reported having symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to a February 2023 survey from KFF.

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