From the CEO

Good news: President Barack Obama and Congress have made health-care reform a priority, and APA, together with the APA Practice Organization, is already working to ensure that mental and behavioral health are viewed as vital to overall health. Our efforts are guided by the following "Principles for Health Care Reform" adopted by the APA Council of Representatives in 2007:

1.) Everyone should have coverage that provides affordable health care for all basic services.

2.) Basic health-care services eliminate the artificial distinction between "mental" and "physical" health, recognize the inseparable relationship between mental and physical well-being, and offer access to treatment for "mental health conditions" equivalent in all respects to access for "physical health conditions."

3.) Basic health-care services include the psychological treatment of physical conditions in order to maximize rehabilitation and quality of life.

4.) Basic health-care services include appropriate prevention services that address the role that behavior plays in seven of the 10 leading causes of mortality and morbidity.

As reform plans evolve, our priority is to ensure lawmakers keep several key points in mind. For one, we must ensure that the policies and programs in any health-care reform plan are evidence-based and culturally and linguistically informed to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. We must also ensure that any health-care system recognizes people's mental health needs across the lifespan, as well as those of special populations, including gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people and individuals with disabilities and chronic health conditions, including HIV/AIDS.

Given the increased focus on primary care in various congressional initiatives, APA is striving to ensure that psychologists are recognized as fully authorized providers in an integrated model of care. We will also work to ensure that prevention and health promotion services include screening for mental disorders and that mental disorders are regarded as chronic conditions. It is critical also that mental health care is a part of benefit packages offered to small businesses and uninsured individuals. And a focus on mental and behavioral health work force development must be included in health-care reform to meet the needs of our nation's growing and increasingly diverse population.

Meanwhile, no health-care plan can succeed unless it's based on sound research. That's why APA is advocating for more funding for psychological research within the Department of Health and Human Services, including the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality. Also, we can learn a great deal about ways to improve our health-care system from research already conducted on the large-scale health care systems within the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Throughout the reform process, APA will strive to ensure that any new laws include support for evaluations of treatments based on psychological and behavioral research, as well as those focused on medications and devices. To achieve real health-care reform, policymakers must be informed about the science of behavior change, behavioral interventions and the critical need for integration of prevention efforts.

Other APA priorities for the Obama administration and new Congress include: reauthorization of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), and the No Child Left Behind Act, along with garnering statutory authority for the Graduate Psychology Education Program and increased federal funding for psychological research. In addition to SCHIP, the APA Practice Organization plans to focus on the implementation of the new mental health parity legislation, Medicare reimbursement rates and privacy in health information technology development.