September 16, 2010
Senate Votes Against Repealing Prevention Fund
The Senate on Tuesday rejected an amendment to the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act (HR 5297) that would have stripped $15 billion from a critical component of healthcare reform, the Prevention and Public Health Fund.
The Prevention and Public Health Fund supports many important programs to improve quality and promote health, including efforts to prevent and reduce the incidence of mental illness. The Johanns amendment would have used the $15 billion from the Prevention Fund as an offset for repealing a provision of health reform that strengthens federal enforcement of tax avoidance. Some businesses opposed the tax provision on the grounds that its requirements were costly and overly cumbersome. The Senate on Tuesday also rejected an amendment by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) that would have reduced the required paperwork for small business, offsetting the cost by closing tax loopholes for oil companies.
The National Council would like to extend our gratitude to our members who responded to Monday’s action alert and urged your Senators to vote against the Johanns amendment. Thank you for standing up to support funding for community preventive health programs!
Health Reform Implementation Update: Provisions Taking Effect Next Week
This month, several significant components of healthcare reform will go into effect. These provisions provide for greater consumer protection and restrictions on insurance company abuses. Beginning Sept. 23:
- Young people up to age 26 will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance policies.
- Insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions.
- Insurers will no longer be able to cancel individuals’ policies except in cases of outright consumer fraud.
- Lifetime limits (limits on the amount of money insurers will pay in claims over an individuals’ lifetime) will be prohibited.
- New restrictions will be placed on insurers’ ability to impose annual limits.
- Insurance plans will be required to cover certain preventive services, including depression screening and regular behavioral assessments for children.
The rules on lifetime/annual limits and preventive care will not apply to plans with “grandfathered” status – meaning plans that have not significantly changed their benefits or cost-sharing requirements since the law’s passage. Most plans are expected to lose their grandfathered status over time. Stay tuned to the Public Policy Update and MentalHealthcareReform.org
to get the latest updates on health reform implementation.
National Council Signs Letter Urging National Fiscal Commission to Protect Federal Discretionary Health Spending
The National Council has joined 270 other national organizations in signing on to a letter to the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. This Commission was established by President Obama in February 2010; it is tasked with identifying policies to improve the nation’s fiscal situation and achieve fiscal sustainability over the long term. The Fiscal Commission has been meeting regularly to determine its recommendations, which will be published in a report in Dec. 2010.
In our letter to the Commission, we stress the importance of federal discretionary spending on health and other social services. These domestic programs have experienced significant erosion over the past several years despite their important role in keeping Americans healthy. Cuts in non-defense discretionary spending restrict investments for critical domestic programs and harm the vulnerable individuals who rely on the federal government to provide basic and necessary services, particularly in times of economic hardship. The letter urges the Commission to look beyond non-defense discretionary spending as a vehicle for deficit reduction. You can read the full text of the letter and a list of signatories here
Webinar Offers Resources, Information on Meeting the Mental Health Needs of Individuals Affected by Gulf Oil Spill
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, the American Medical Association and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress and Disaster Psychiatry Outreach co-hosted a webinar for healthcare providers treating patients affected by the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The webinar, titled “Helping Physicians in the Gulf: Recognizing Mental and Behavioral Health Issues in Your Patients,” provided an overview of the relevant research on mental health effects of similar disasters to the Gulf oil spill, reviewed available mental health assessment tools and offered advice on how to treat and refer patients to community resources. A free recording
of the webinar is now available on the AMA website.
Strategies for Implementing “Meaningful Use” of Health IT within the Safety Net Community
On Friday, Sept. 17th at 2:00 p.m eastern time, the Health Resources and Services Administration will host a webinar for safety net providers on how to incorporate “meaningful use” of health information technology into their organizations. The webinar will focus on strategies that health facilities can use for overcoming barriers to the adoption of health IT and meeting the criteria for meaningful use of electronic medical records required to receive federal incentive payments. The presenters include health facility executives and HRSA grantees from the safety net community. Registration
is available online.
HHS Website Seeks to Make Volunteering in an Emergency Easier for Health Professionals
A new website launched this month by the Department of Health and Human Services seeks to facilitate the process by which health professionals can volunteer in an emergency. The website, Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP), allows health providers to quickly volunteer in emergency situations without having to wait for their credentials and licensure to be verified – a process that in the past has presented challenges and delays to volunteer providers and the facilities that need their assistance.
allows health professionals to pre-register their contact information, credentials and licensures so that they will be able to volunteer quickly in emergency situations. HHS and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response are encouraging
health professionals of all kinds, including clinical social workers and mental health counselors, to take advantage of the ESAR-VHP system.
New This Week on MentalHealthcareReform.org
Check out the National Council’s healthcare reform blog
for the latest news about reform implementation, along with resources to help you learn about the law and take advantage of its many provisions. New this week on MentalHealthcareReform.org
- Medicare, Health Reform and the Challenges for People with Disabilities
- New Guidance Issued on Streamlined Insurance Appeal Process
- HHS Releases Guidance on Prohibition of Annual Limits
- And much more!