Bipartisan Legislation to Expand Mental Health Services for Health Care Workers Advances Through Committee
The Physician Wellness Program Act improves access to mental health care for providers
Washington, September 21, 2022
Today, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced bipartisan legislation authored by U.S. Representatives Raul Ruiz, M.D. (CA-36), Larry Bucshon, M.D. (IN-08), Don Beyer (VA-08), and Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC-03) that would expand access to critical mental health programs for many providers carrying an increased burden and workload during the COVID-19 pandemic. H.R. 8890, the Physician Wellness Program Act, would remove barriers that oftentimes prevent physicians from accessing wellness programs.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our health care heroes have served on the frontlines of this public health crisis under immense pressure, risking their own lives to protect our nation’s health,” said Dr. Ruiz. “With rising rates of depression, burnout, anxiety, and PTSD reported among physicians and other health care workers, it is crucial that we provide them with the mental health care and resources they need. That is why I introduced the bipartisan Physician Wellness Program Act to help providers access the mental health care they need and help them care for their patients.”
“Our nation’s doctors put their lives on the line every day to help patients in need. With record levels of stress, burnout, and other mental health issues being reported by providers across America, these everyday heroes need adequate support so they can continue to help others. I am proud to play a role in introducing the bipartisan Physician Wellness Program Act to remove barriers that often prevent physicians from accessing wellness programs,” said Dr. Bucshon.
“Physicians and health providers have always had tough jobs, but being on the front lines has taken the challenges facing them to the next level, and Congress needs to do more to support health professionals,” said Beyer. “Our bill would boost wellness and access to mental health resources for those who provide essential care to our society, to ensure they get the help they need as they work to keep the rest of us healthy.”
“Maintaining a healthy physician workforce is critical to ensuring our communities continue receiving world-class care,” said Rep. Greg Murphy, M.D. (NC-03). “With provider burnout at historic levels, I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Dr. Ruiz, Rep. Beyer, and Dr. Bucshon to ensure physicians can access mental health services.”
Mental health and physician burnout have been a rising concern in our health care system since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, which only exacerbated its prevalence. A recent survey reported that 22 percent of health care workers have experienced depression or post-traumatic stress disorder, and 76 percent are experiencing burnout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this year, President Biden signed into law the Dr. Lorna Breen Health Care Provider Protection Act, which addresses this issue by establishing a variety of grant programs for health care providers.
However, regulations under the Physician Self-Referral Law and the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute prevent physicians who are part of a hospital’s medical staff – but are not directly employed by the hospital – from accessing mental health care programs provided by the hospital, such as mental health care services, counseling, suicide prevention programs, and substance use disorder treatment for health care providers.