Funding that APA had proposed for hospital-based psychology internships was, at the last moment, dropped from the recent Medicare prescription drug legislation.
Since 1997, APA's Practice Directorate--with help from the Education Directorate--has been working to secure Medicare funding for hospital-based psychology internship and postdoctoral programs. In 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) delivered a partial victory when it agreed to interpret the current law to include Medicare funding for postdoctoral programs. But inclusion of psychology internships has proved to be a much more difficult road, says Russ Newman, PhD, JD, APA's executive director for professional practice, since HHS will not agree to make internships eligible for Medicare funding without specific authorization from Congress to appropriate the funds.
So, the Practice Directorate worked with Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) to get psychology training added to last year's Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation. The Senate passed a psychology-friendly bill in late June, and the House followed by passing its own prescription drug benefit bill--one that didn't include psychology's provision.
Representatives and senators were then charged with reconciling the differences between the two bills in a conference committee. And so APA continued the work to obtain bipartisan support for Medicare funding for psychology internships. Backing from several conferees kept the psychology provision alive through much of the deliberations, but after political wrangling over issues largely unrelated to psychology funding, lawmakers ultimately stripped the provision from the bill before they finalized it.
"Psychology got closer than ever before to securing training funding. Though the provision had grassroots support, the national debate on the controversial Medicare legislation eclipsed graduate medical funding," says Newman.
--J. DAW HOLLOWAY