John Katko

U.S. Rep. John Katko, center, and state Assemblyman Gary Finch, right, greet employees during shift change Oct. 26 at Auburn Correctional Facility.

U.S. Rep. John Katko is once again teaming with a California Democrat to propose expanding Medicare coverage to include additional mental health services. 

Katko, R-Camillus, and U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson have reintroduced the Mental Health Access Improvement Act. The bill would add mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists to Medicare's list of eligible service providers. 

Medicare's existing list of covered mental health service providers includes clinical social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists and psychiatric nurses. But counselors and therapists, despite having the same training, aren't eligible for Medicare reimbursements. 

"This measure will not only increase access to care for older Americans in communities nationwide, but it will help alleviate the strain on our nation's mental health and addiction workforce," Katko said. 

Thompson, D-California, agreed with his Republican colleague. 

"Far too many of our seniors don't have adequate access to mental health care at a time in their lives when they are at greater risk for mental illnesses," he said. "Left unaddressed, this access gap can exacerbate other health problems and increase health costs. This is an unacceptable outcome for our nation's older Americans." 

Katko and Thompson introduced the legislation in June 2017. The bill was referred to two House committees: Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means. Both committees sent the measure to their respective health subcommittees. 

The bill didn't advance out of the subcommittee. 

Katko and Thompson are hopeful for a different outcome this time around. There is a Senate bill to expand Medicare coverage for additional mental health services. The legislation was introduced by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso, a Republican, and Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat. 

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