Huizenga, Collins work to improve access to mental health care under Medicare

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI) and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced bipartisan legislation that would provide extended support to individuals with mental health challenges under the Medicare program.

The Medicare Mental Health Inpatient Equity Act would eliminate the 190-day lifetime limit on inpatient psychiatric hospital services under Medicare.

Rep. Huizenga introduced the House version of the bill, H.R. 5674, on Oct. 21 with bill sponsor U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY), while Sen. Collins sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, S. 3061, with U.S. Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN) on Oct. 25.

The 190-day limit in care disproportionately harms non-elderly individuals who receive Medicare coverage, such as those living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, information provided by the lawmakers stated, noting that the majority of private health insurers have already removed the limit.

“Medicare’s 190-day lifetime cap on inpatient services in psychiatric hospitals can hurt people by arbitrarily ending coverage and can disrupt care from a provider who is most familiar with the patient,” Sen. Collins said on Oct. 27. “Moreover, when individuals with mental illness cannot receive care in the right setting, they often end up in hospital emergency rooms, in jails, or on the streets—leading to worse long-term outcomes for the individual, more pain and suffering for family members, and a greater cost to the taxpayer.”

This lifetime limit does not apply to psychiatric units in general hospitals, and no other Medicare inpatient service has those types of arbitrary 190-day caps.

“I am proud to help lead on this issue with bipartisan legislation to modernize Medicare policies and bring them in line with the higher standards used by the State of Michigan and private sector,” Rep. Huizenga said. “Hopefully, this bipartisan bill can help provide a roadmap for additional mental health reforms and challenges Congress must address.”

The legislation is supported by the American Hospital Association and the Mental Health Liaison Group, which represents a coalition of 57 national organizations, including consumer groups and mental health and addiction providers.