Washington, DC - The American Psychological Association applauded the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for issuing a proposal to cover the cost of psychiatric consulting services as part of primary medical care.

“This is an important step forward in promoting the integration of primary care and behavioral health, and APA is excited about it,” said APA President Susan H. McDaniel, PhD. “And we look forward to working with CMS to ultimately expand coverage for behavioral health integration to other mental health professionals as well, including psychologists.”

CMS issued proposed changes to the Physician Fee Schedule last week, saying they would result in more coordinated and patient-centered medical care.

“We agree that this new rule will improve health care by promoting the growing trend of including mental health care as an integral part of primary care,” McDaniel added. “Because of the critical connection between mental and physical health, patients will benefit from any and all steps that make integrated health care more accessible.”

Under the CMS proposed rule, Medicare would cover “psychiatric collaborative care management services” in primary care. In addition, one of the new payment codes in the proposal is broad in scope and was included by CMS to open the door for coverage of other behavioral health care models.

In April, President McDaniel convened the Integrated Primary Care Alliance meeting, including leaders from 27 health and mental health stakeholder organizations, to foster collaboration and coordination of efforts to advance primary care integration. APA will work with its Alliance partners and CMS to promote inclusion of additional models of effective behavioral health integration.

CMS is accepting public comments on the proposed rule until Sept. 6, and said it would respond to comments in its final rule, which is expected to be released in early November. Changes would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017. 

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA's membership includes more than 117,500 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people's lives.