The 2023 legislative session is over. Here's a breakdown of some of the bills we've been monitoring that impact our profession.
Overall, this legislative session was not very eventful for healthcare-related issues. FMHCA's lobbyist will be disseminating a summary report of the legislative session within the next couple weeks, but here is a preview of some of what may be shared:
As stated in our April 2023 update, SB 700, which would have addressed several key priorities for FMHCA, was not passed, primarily because no House companion version of the bill was filed. However, we feel optimistic about several FMHCA priorities that bill sought to address for the 2024 legislative session.
As we discussed last month, we were hoping that HB 1227 could be amended to include our forensic priorities. Though this did not happen (and the bill was not successful), we succeeded in drawing attention to the issue and garnering support, which we believe will be most helpful in the next legislative session.
As discussed last month, FMHCA opposed SB 1364. We we successful in advocating for an exclusion for 491 board licensees in the House version of that bill. Ultimately, the bill was defeated, and we consider this a victory for FMHCA.
Two bills were passed that have raised concerns about ethical issues in counseling. The first is SB 254. Among other things, this bill restricts physicians from prescribing puberty blockers and providing sex-reassignment surgeries to minors (with an exclusion built in for some minors who are already receiving such care). It does not prohibit 491 board licensees from providing gender affirming psychotherapy.
The second is SB 1580, which allows healthcare providers to decline to participate in healthcare services that conflict with the provider’s documented conscience-based (i.e., moral, ethical, or religious) objections.. Additionally, it appears to prohibit universities from taking disciplinary actions against healthcare students who have appropriately raised such objections. This bill was backed by the Florida Medical Association and, based on a review of the staff analysis related to the bill, appears to have initially been written, in part, with the intention of allowing physicians to refuse to provide abortions if abortions conflict with their moral and religious beliefs. However, as the ACA recently pointed out (see attached email), the bill can certainly pose unintended consequences for the counseling profession if, for example, a counselor (or counseling student) were to refuse care to clients because of clashes between the counselor's religious beliefs and the client's sexual orientation or gender identity. Both AMHCA and ACA ethical codes prohibit counselors from denying care based solely on the counselor’s personal beliefs. FMHCA is currently working on an analysis and/or position paper to be distributed to members providing additional guidance.
On 12/23/22, President Biden signed the Mental Health Access Improvement Act into law, allowing CMHCs and MFTs to enroll as Medicare providers. This is the result of decades of advocacy! Enrollment starts 1/1/24. Between now and then, CMHS is writing regulations on how CMHCs work with Medicare.
There is concern that CMHCs could be excluded from access to certain CPT codes (e.g., psychological testing), which could trigger a chain reaction of limitations on scope of practice. AMHCA is part of a Medicare Mental Health Workforce Coalition consisting of 13 organizations meeting weekly with CMS and educating CMHCs about working with Medicare. AMHCA has been advising CMS that counselors should have full and equal access to CPT codes related to both psychotherapy and psychological evaluation.
SunCoast Mental Health Counselors Association
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