April 14, 2011
National Council Announces March Advocacy Challenge Winners
The National Council is pleased to announce the winners of our March Advocacy Challenge:
- Ralph Provenza of United Counseling Service in Bennington, Vermont
- Ben Sher of Institute for Community Living in New York, New York
- Abby Swatsworth of CenterPointe in Lincoln, Nebraska
- Michelle Taylor of NRI Community Services in North Smithfield, Rhode Island
- Don Thacker of Shawnee Mental Health Center in Portsmouth, Ohio
- Christina VanRegenmorter of Centerstone in Nashville, Tennessee
Congratulations to our winners for their dedication and commitment to advocacy on behalf of addictions and mental health treatment! The National Council encourages all of our members to help build support in Congress for a strong behavioral health safety net by participating in the monthly advocacy challenge. Click for more information
Congress, White House Strike Deal on 2011 Budget; Includes Reduced Cuts to SAMHSA
Late Friday night, congressional negotiators struck a deal on the budget for the remainder of fiscal year 2011 that narrowly averted a government shutdown. The deal makes a total of $38 billion in cuts for the remainder of the year, significantly less than the $61 billion originally passed by the House. The cuts include a $52 million reduction in funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, far less than the over $200 million approved by the House. The legislation does not identify specific SAMHSA programs that must be cut, meaning that SAMHSA will have to determine where to make the spending reductions in its budget.
These 2011 reductions are just the beginning of the ongoing budget battles that will take place over the coming months. As Congress begins to debate the 2012 budget and the national debt limit, mental health and addictions programs continue to be at risk! If you have not already done so, please take a moment to write a message
to your members of Congress urging them to fight against cuts to behavioral healthcare. In addition, the National Council encourages you to invite your Members of Congress to visit your agency while they are on recess from April 18-29. This is a perfect opportunity for you to educate your legislators about the importance of the services your organization provides and show them the need for fully funding the behavioral health safety net.
New Details Emerge about Proposal to Cut Medicaid in 2012 Budget; Take Action to Protect Medicaid Today!
The House this week is expected to vote on the proposed outline for the 2012 budget recently issued by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the House Budget Committee. The Ryan proposal would drastically reshape Medicaid and impose dangerous levels of cuts on the program. It seeks to convert Medicaid to a block grant, capping the federal government’s share of Medicaid spending and making states responsible for meeting all additional costs. The result would be a $1 trillion reduction in Medicaid funding over the next 10 years.
A new analysis
of the proposal by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that Ryan’s plan would save far less than he suggests over the coming decades. While making $4.3 trillion in cuts to important programs such as Medicaid, Pell Grants, food stamps, and low-income housing, Ryan simultaneously provides $4.2 trillion in tax cuts, corporate subsidies, and other windfalls for the wealthy. The net result is only a $155 billion reduction in the deficit, a small fraction of the amount Representative Ryan claims his plan would save.
Although the Ryan bill will almost certainly die on reaching the Senate, the biggest fight for Medicaid lies ahead. At some point in the next 2 months, the nation is expected to reach the statutory ceiling on our federal debt. Each time this happens, Congress must pass a law increasing the debt limit. This year, the debt limit debate is expected to be driven by fiscal conservatives who are likely to demand a global cap on federal spending. Such a bill
has been introduced by Senators Bob Corker (R-TN) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO). The net result of these spending caps would inevitably lead to block granting Medicaid, converting Medicare to a voucher system, and other drastic reductions in federal discretionary spending.
Our field must be vigilant in our opposition to the Ryan plan and the block-granting of Medicaid. If you have not already done so, please contact (http://capwiz.com/thenationalcouncil/issues/alert/?alertid=41405501 ) your Representatives today and urge them to vote against this harmful proposal!
To learn more about the Ryan plan, see this fact sheet
from the National Council. You can also view the amount of money your state would lose under the Medicare and Medicaid changes in his plan in this document
from FamiliesUSA. For another sense of what impact the block-granting of Medicaid would have on your state, see this report
from CBPP, which outlines how much money your state would have lost if Ryan’s plan had gone into effect in 2000.
President Obama Announces Plan to Reform Entitlement Programs
Responding to growing pressure on the government to address the federal deficit and the growth of spending on entitlement programs, President Obama this week released his own plan for deficit reduction and entitlement reform. The President’s plan was billed as a response to the Ryan plan, and lays out an alternate vision of how the nation can achieve sustainable reforms.
President Obama’s plan would reduce federal Medicaid spending by $480 billion over the next decade, without converting the program to a block grant. Among other changes, he proposes instituting a single federal match rate for all states, meaning that each state would have the same share of its Medicaid program covered by the federal government. Documentation released by the White House did not provide details on how this single matching rate would be calculated or whether additional resources would be available to states that experienced lost funding from the formula change.
The proposal also aims to achieve cost savings by further strengthening programs enacted under health reform, such as initiatives to improve coordination of care for individuals dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. While full details and legislative language have not yet been released, you can read the available information about the President’s plan here
The National Council is reviewing the President’s plan and will provide more information as we are able. Stay tuned for additional details in upcoming issues of the Public Policy Update.
House Passes Bill to Repeal Prevention and Public Health Fund
On Wednesday, the House voted 236-189 to approve a bill (HR 1217
) that would repeal all funding for the Prevention and Public Health Fund enacted under health reform. This fund provides support for a variety of prevention programs. Currently, SAMHSA is receiving $88 million from the prevention fund to support such programs as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral and Treatment), suicide prevention, and the Primary Care-Behavioral Health Integration (PCBHI) grants. The PCBHI program funds initiatives for the co-location of primary care in behavioral health settings.
Four Democrats joined all the House Republicans in voting for the bill. However, the bill is unlikely to become law. The Senate has already rejected other attempts to roll back funding for the law, and President Obama has said he would veto such legislation.
SAMHSA Announces Format Change for Block Grant Applications; Requests Comments
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has announced a new application approach for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant (SABG) and the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant (MHBG). Currently, the two block grant programs are administered differently by separate SAMHSA centers, with different structures and timing for accepting and planning for the grants. In an effort to streamline the application and funding procedures, SAMHSA is proposing to create one consistent application process across both block grants. The new approach will allow states the option of submitting one coordinated plan for both grants.
For more detailed information about the proposed changes, refer to the SAMHSA website
or to the Federal Register notice
. Comments on the format changes can be submitted until June 5, 2011. The National Council is reviewing the SAMHSA proposal and developing model comments that may be used as a template for any member organizations interested in submitting comments to SAMHSA. Stay tuned to the Public Policy Update for more details.
April 19 Webinar to Address Engaging Patients in Meaningful Use
On Tuesday April 19 from 3:00-4:30pm eastern time, the eHealth Initiative will hold a webinar titled, “Engaging Patients in Meaningful Use.” As organizations seek to maximize their use of health information technology, health systems may wish to have both patients and physicians using electronic health records when making care decisions. This webinar will address strategies for engaging consumers and providers in the use of health IT. Attendees will learn how utilization of health records can change the patient experience, how to involve the consumer in the meaningful use of health IT, and more. This webinar includes a case study highlighting Mercy Health's PHR successes. Click here
for more information and to register.