Psychologists should not be classifed as physicians
Legislation (S. 1064) has been introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in the United States Senate to define psychologists as “physicians” under Medicare. As behavioral scientists and specialists in assessment and psychotherapy procedures, psychologists are permitted to provide “qualified psychology services” under Medicare Part B. With that said, legally defining psychologists as “physicians” in any capacity would constitute a disingenuous action, given that psychologists, by virtue of their profession, lack both medical education and extended medical specialty residency training. If enacted, this bill would have serious implications for the medical supervision of Americans with psychiatric illness who are particularly prone to multiple co-occurring medical conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) opposes defining psychologists as “physicians” under Medicare. While psychologists are highly qualified professionals, they do not receive the education and training that is fundamentally necessary to provide proper medical supervision of hospital patients. APA urges Members of Congress to consider carefully the importance of sound medical supervision for our nation’s most vulnerable elderly and disabled individuals suffering from mental illness and reject S. 1064 and its counterpart in the House of Representatives, H.R. 794.