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'Final Rule' offers broader mental health care coverage


Story by Master Sgt. Amaani Lyle

WASHINGTON - TRICARE military health plan beneficiaries will now have access to both TRICARE-certified mental health counselors and supervised mental health counselors, a Defense Health Agency official said Friday.

In an interview with DOD News, Dr. John Davison, DHA’s behavioral health branch chief, said the so-called “Final Rule,” published July 17, will go into effect Aug. 18 and is a follow-on to an interim rule published in 2011.

“This will help ensure that no matter where our beneficiaries may be living, they can access the services of either a supervised mental health counselor or a TRICARE-certified mental health counselor and still receive high-quality mental health care,” he said.

The changes, Davison explained, came about as the result of TRICARE goals to standardize care despite license criteria variation across states. Many beneficiaries elect to keep their current supervised mental health counselors, he added, and TRICARE will continue to authorize such treatment indefinitely.

TRICARE-certified mental health counselors differ from supervised mental health counselors in that the former have the education and training experience that meet Institute of Medicine recommendations, enabling them to practice independently to diagnose and treat mental illness without physician oversight, Davison said.

Beneficiaries can access the services of both types of mental health counselors through TRICARE’s managed care support contractors: United HealthCare, HealthNet Federal Services and Humana ValueOptions.

“These managed care support contractors also provide services of other mental health practitioners, such as psychiatrists, clinical

psychologists, clinical social workers and psychiatric nurse specialists,” Davison said.

Davison also emphasized that the Final Rule creates no disruption to beneficiaries’ current care or services.

“If they’re receiving care from a supervised mental health counselor and they like that counselor,” he said, “they may continue to do so, and TRICARE will reimburse those claims.”

Ultimately, Davison said, beneficiaries have ongoing, high-quality mental health care with access to a robust pool of counselors.

“We’re very happy that we continue to provide these services through the TRICARE health benefit to serve the mental health needs of our beneficiaries and service members.”

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