Nearly one in four Medicare beneficiaries have been diagnosed with mental health or substance use disorders, and research indicates this population responds well to mental health treatment. However, Medicare policy omits licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs) and licensed marriage and family therapists (LMFTs) as approved providers, exacerbating an existing national provider shortage. Emerging research demonstrates that the provider omission, referred to as the Medicare mental health coverage gap (MMHCG), profoundly impacts excluded providers and the communities they serve. This paper represents a synthesis of the most current scholarship on Medicare research, policy, and advocacy. In particular, we explore three ways the MMHCG impacts providers and beneficiaries alike: limiting provider choices, thwarting continuity of care, and creating challenging decisions for beneficiaries and providers. Our aim is to help mental health counselors better understand and navigate the MMHCG and aid in advocacy efforts for legislation to include LMHCs and LMFTs as approved Medicare providers.

You do not currently have access to this content.