AAHD Signs Letter in Support of Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act

Along with many other advocacy organizations, AAHD has signed a letter to Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Senator Olympia Snow (R-Maine) in support of the Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act. This bill would eliminate the 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric care for Medicare beneficiaries, thereby giving Medicare beneficiaries the same access to mental health coverage enjoyed by those with private health insurance.

The lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric care for Medicare participants does not apply to psychiatric units in general hospitals, and there is no lifetime limit for any other Medicare specialty inpatient hospital service.

The letter says:
We urge Congress to eliminate the Medicare 190-day lifetime limit for psychiatric hospital care by passing your bill. This would improve access to inpatient psychiatric care by allowing Medicare patients coverage in freestanding, psychiatric hospitals. The elimination of the 190-day lifetime limit will equalize Medicare mental health coverage with private health insurance coverage, offer beneficiaries the choice of inpatient psychiatric care providers, increase access for the most seriously ill, improve continuity of care and create a more cost-effective Medicare program.

The need for access to comprehensive mental health treatment for older adults is compelling. Researchers estimate that up to 63 percent of older adults with a mental health disorder do not receive the services they need. Furthermore, older adults have the highest suicide rate of any other age group. Those 85 and over have the highest rate, while those aged 75-84 have the second highest.

Senators Kerry and Snow first introduced the bill in 2010 and reintroduced it on February 16, 2011. The bill’s cosponsors include Senator Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.).