Proposed Bill Would Add Mental Health To Medicare

A proposed bill would bring marriage and family therapists and licensed counselors under Medicare’s coverage.

The proposal has drawn strong opposition from the American Psychiatric Association, which says it would waste government money by increasing spending for marriage counseling or family troubles without improving care for more serious problems like schizophrenia.

“These are the wrong services to cover at the wrong time. There’s a huge resource issue,” says Tom Leibfried, the association’s lobbyist. “Congress is finding it hard to provide new money for services, and the first thing to fund would not be these.”

Sen. Craig Thomas, R-WY, introduced the proposal, which has become an amendment to legislation designed to cut federal spending by $36 billion over 10 years. The legislation passed the Senate last week, but it would have to survive negotiations with the House before being sent to President Bush.