Tester, Murkowski, Shaheen, Sullivan Spearhead Bill to Bring More Addiction Counselors to Communities

Senators’ bipartisan bill will increase access to treatment by allowing licensed addiction counselors to be reimbursed by Medicare

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK) recently introduced legislation to provide better access to treatment for substance use disorders by recognizing licensed addiction counselors (LACs) under Medicare.

The Senators’ Addiction Treatment Access Act would allow health care facilities to bill Medicare for LAC services. LACs are not currently recognized as providers by Medicare, which prevents them from receiving reimbursement and, in turn, hinders the ability of health centers to hire more providers since reliable and adequate reimbursement is critical to informing the size of the workforce.

“When I visit Montana’s health care centers, I hear time and time again that there aren’t enough providers to help folks struggling with addiction,” Senator Tester said. “Montanans seeking counseling should be able to get it, no matter where they live. This bill will ensure that when they walk into a health care facility, folks can get set up with a trained professional who can help them get the treatment they need.”

“Although we have made great strides in addressing substance use disorders across the country, it is clear that addiction continues to be one of our nation’s most challenging public health issues. Addiction health care teams in community health centers throughout the U.S. rely on licensed addiction counselors as critical components of their teams. By providing a stable Medicare reimbursement structure for licensed addiction counselors in Alaska and across the country, we are greatly encouraging more professionals to practice in this field,” said Senator Murkowski. “More medical professionals working to address substance abuse disorders means more individuals can have access to the help they need. I’m proud to support legislation that will have positive impacts on developing a stronger workforce of addiction professionals nationwide. For a state like Alaska that struggles to recruit and retain health care professionals, this is a step in the right direction.”

“Affordable access to the full scope of health care services is paramount in our strategy to turn the tide of this epidemic by helping those struggling with substance use disorder find the path to long-term recovery. Counselors play a critical role in delivering that urgently needed care and support,” said Senator Shaheen. “By allowing licensed drug and alcohol counselors to be reimbursed by Medicare, the Addiction Treatment Access Act will increase access to treatment and reduce costs for individuals, helping to ensure that those who need help will be able to receive it.”

The self-reported rates of alcohol and illicit drug use in all the Senators’ home states (Montana, Alaska, and New Hampshire) are higher than national averages. The Senators’ bill aims to bring more trained professionals into health care facilities across the country that are equipped to treat those with substance use disorders.

“NAADAC is pleased to support the introduction of the Addiction Treatment Access Act (S. 2412) and appreciates Senators Tester (D-MT), Sullivan (R-AK), Shaheen (D-NH), and Murkowski’s (R-AK) leadership on this critical SUD treatment issue,” said Cynthia Moreno Tuohy, Executive Director of NAADAC, the Association for Addiction Professionals. “Recognizing the education, training, and competencies of Addiction Counselors under Medicare Part B represents a critical point of access to services for so many in need. NAADAC is thrilled to support the bill and its goal of helping Americans with substance use disorders find treatment.”