Qualified hospital-based postdoctoral psychology programs can now offset reasonable costs associated with training, thanks to a decision handed down in September by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that makes them eligible for Medicare training dollars.
According to APA officials, the recognition that psychologists should be eligible for this funding is an important advance for the profession.
"For the first time, HHS has recognized that psychology training should be funded by the Medicare program to ensure that beneficiaries will have access to psychologists' services," says Doug Walter, legislative counsel for APA's Practice Directorate. "This recognition really gets the ball rolling. And it ensures that psychology postdocs are supported in the future."
The new rule allows hospital-based postdoctoral programs to apply for funding from Medicare's Graduate Medical Education (GME) program, the main source of federal government funding for training health professionals. Medicare will reimburse teaching hospitals and other facilities for some costs associated with psychology postdoctoral programs.
In addition to being APA-accredited and hospital-based, to obtain funding postdoctoral programs must meet certain criteria applied to all nonphysician training programs. Specifically, a hospital must directly incur the training costs associated with operating a psychology postdoctoral program, must control the program curriculum, must control the administration of the program, employ teaching staff, and provide and control both classroom and clinical instruction.
The APA Practice Organization has been pushing to get psychology included in GME funding since 1997. One major goal that has come close but hasn't yet reached fruition is to secure GME funding for psychology internships--not just postdocs--done in hospitals or other health-care settings.
In the final days of the Clinton administration, HHS proposed a rule providing GME funding for psychology internships. The rule still must be finalized to become law. But, says Walter, "This postdoc decision will help us get things started."
HHS suggests that directors of eligible postdoctoral programs contact their hospital administrators, who will contact the relevant Medicare fiscal intermediary to begin the funding process.