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Saturday, June 11, 2011

APA calls for psychologists inclusion in ACOs

Part of a psychologist's aspirational ethic is to urge government agencies to help our patients access appropriate psychological care.  This form of advocacy also advances our profession.  Here is a press release from the American Psychological Association that illustrates an important part of our collective professional responsibility.
June 9, 2011—This week, APA sent a comment letter (PDF, 265KB) to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding a draft proposal to establish Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Medicare. Section 3022 of the Affordable Care Act requires the establishment of the Medicare Shared Saving Program, which is intended to encourage the development of ACOs.
ACOs, one of the reforms included in the Affordable Care Act, will allow hospitals, physicians and other Medicare providers and suppliers of services to establish a network that emphasizes primary and coordinated care. Medicare beneficiaries will enroll in an ACO as an alternative to fee-for-service delivery, where the ACO will coordinate their care in an effort to improve quality and contain cost increases. Medicare beneficiaries may still see providers of their choice but their care will be more carefully coordinated by the ACO.
The letter from APA Chief Executive Officer Norman B. Anderson, PhD, and APA Executive Director for Professional Practice Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, dated June 6, 2011, addresses a specific portion of the proposal regarding health care professionals who may participate in ACOs.
In the letter, Drs. Nordal and Anderson urge inclusion of clinical psychologists as participants in ACOs, therefore ensuring better access of Medicare beneficiaries to mental health, substance use disorder and behavioral health services. The letter is a recent example of APA’s ongoing advocacy to promote psychologists as key players in primary care as it develops.
Among Anderson and Nordal’s comments:

- APA agrees with Sebelius’ decision to expand the list of providers eligible to
  participate in ACOs to include clinical psychologists and other providers not
  specifically named in the statute. 

- Clinical psychologists should be incentivized to provide care as part of the ACO
  primary care team. 

- Including clinical psychologists in ACOs ensures the integration of mental,
  substance use disorder and behavioral health with physical health and a more
  comprehensive integrated care system.

APA is asking HHS to retain and implement this provision in the proposed rule in the final draft. We anticipate that HHS will finalize the rule in the coming months.
APA and the APA Practice Organization will continue to evaluate and provide input on proposed rules of interest to practicing psychologists. 
For more information, contact the Government Relations department by email or at (202) 336-5870.