Addiction Policy News

ASAM Urges Congress to Oppose Scope of Practice Changes for Clinical Psychologists

September 22, 2020


On September 22, ASAM, the American Medical Association, and 86 other organizations sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to oppose passage of H.R. 884 / S. 2772, the “Medicare Mental Health Access Act,” which would change the definition of “physician” under the Medicare program to include clinical psychologists. This change would allow clinical psychologists to treat patients without the supervision of a physician throughout in-patient settings, including partial hospitalization settings.


The letter emphasizes the rigorous training that physicians undergo in order to lead patient care teams, noting that physicians complete four years of medical school plus three to seven years of residency, including 10,000-16,000 hours of clinical training. Clinical psychologists lack the requisite medical education, medication management training, and clinical training that is critical in determining differential diagnosis and do not fit the definition of a physician. Furthermore, Medicare patients in partial hospital programs or in-patient settings with acute and serious mental illness often have multiple complex medical problems typically requiring several different medications to treat underlying illnesses. Given the complexity of this patient population, it is essential that the Medicare program retain collaborative guardrails that require psychologists to consult physicians who have the education and training to effectively manage the entire treatment plan, including both physical and mental health services. The passage of H.R. 884/ S. 2772 would put patient safety at risk by allowing psychologists to offer services which they are not trained to perform.


Read the letter here.


Read the bill here.