Senators Fetterman, Smith Introduce Legislation to Establish a Senate Commission on Mental Health

May 21, 2024

On May 9, 2024, United States Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) introduced S.4312, "a bill to establish a United States Senate Commission on Mental Health for the purpose of providing to Congress and the President independent, expert policy recommendations to improve access to and affordability of mental health care services". This bill is co-sponsored by Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and also known as the United States Senate Commission on Mental Health Act of 2024.

As shared in a press release from Senator Fetterman, the Commission's first year of study would focus on the following topics:

  • Coverage of mental healthcare services, including mental health parity requirements, under federal health plans: Enrollees often struggle to obtain mental healthcare services, even when those services are covered. Efficacy of mental healthcare coverage by federal health plans would be assessed based on the plans' ability to meet the enrollees' needs, including an assessment of parity enforcement.
  • Reimbursement rates for mental healthcare services with regard to mental healthcare provider: The impact of reimbursement rates within federal health plans such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children's Health Insurance Program on affordability, accessibility, and availability for enrollees is significant.
  • Workforce challenges, including barriers to entering this field and challenges faced by mental healthcare providers, including factors that contribute to burnout: This includes looking at challenges and barriers for (1) individuals, including students, pursuing mental health professions, (2) students enrolled in mental healthcare training programs, (3) professors and staff of those programs, (4) and mental healthcare providers.

The Commission would submit to Congress, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and, as appropriate, the heads of other relevant federal agencies, an annual report based on studies carried out that year. Each annual report would include:

  • An analysis of current barriers to accessing affordable and equitable mental healthcare services, challenges facing the mental healthcare workforce, and efforts by local, state, and Tribal entities to improve mental healthcare services and delivery
  • Policy recommendations for Congress and the president to address issues detailed in the report: This report would also include a comprehensive needs assessment and gap analysis across the continuum of mental healthcare services.

Senator Fetterman was quoted in the press release saying, "Before I sought help for my depression, I was the biggest cynic - but it truly worked . . . Mental health challenges impact people all across Pennsylvania and the country - from our reddest counties to our bluest, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns. I'm committed to ensuring that everyone suffering from mental health challenges has access to the same resources and treatment that I did. This bill will help make that the reality. I'm proud to lead it with Senator Smith."

Click here to read the full press release for more information, and click here to access the legislation itself.

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