Tester Sponsors Bill to Confront Montana’s Mental Health Epidemic

Senator’s Legislation Will Expand Senior’s Access to Psychologists

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester is sponsoring legislation to address Montana’s high rate of suicide and give seniors expanded access to mental health services.

Tester’s Medicare Mental Health Access Act will remove burdensome regulations that prohibit state-licensed psychologists from treating seniors using Medicare.

“Montana is facing a mental health epidemic,” Tester said. “Our seniors have a huge unmet need because bureaucratic red tape stands between them and mental health professionals. Our seniors deserve better.”

Montana has the highest suicide rate in the nation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and men over 85 are at exceptionally high risk of committing suicide.

In order for Medicare to pay for mental health services provided by psychologists, psychologists are required to have physician supervision when practicing in non-office settings, even though they hold state licenses and often have more mental health training than the supervising physician.

Tester’s bill will expand access to mental health services by removing the supervision requirement for psychologists who provide services within the scope of their state license.

Private insurance companies, TRICARE, the VA and Medicare Advantage plans already give psychologists authority to practice without physician supervision.

“This bipartisan bill lets psychologists do their jobs. It allows Montana’s seniors who suffer from mental illness to get the help they need faster and more efficiently,” Tester continued.

Tester has been a longtime champion for Montana’s seniors. He authored a bipartisan bill last year to make Medicare Part D more transparent and lower costs for seniors who take prescription drugs.

Tester is also fighting to expand mental health care in Montana. In the budget bill he helped pass in March,
Tester secured $723 million for Community Mental Health Services Block Grants to increase access to mental health care.

The full text of Tester’s Medicare Mental Health Access Act is available HERE.