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Who should offer psychotherapy in nursing homes?

July 15, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Should physicians without training in psychiatry, psychology or social work be allowed to diagnose mental illness or conduct psychotherapy sessions for nursing home residents?

A recent analysis of federal data by investigative journalists at the nonprofit organization ProPublica found that many such doctors—obstetricians/gynecologists, thoracic surgeons, primary care physicians and others—are being reimbursed by Medicare for offering such mental health services to those living in intermediate and long-term care facilities.

Medicaid stopped paying for group psychotherapy for nursing home residents in 2012, notes writer Charles Ornstein, but physicians in Illinois, New York and other states continue to bill Medicare for such services. In fact, according to ProPublica, some doctors are being reimbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars for offering thousands of individual or group therapy sessions annually.

A representative of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services told ProPublica that Medicare does not have a policy specifying which types of physicians may conduct group psychotherapy sessions.

To read Ornstein’s article, click here.