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Ambassador Brief: April 2015

IN THIS ISSUE:

FROM CHUCK’S CHAIR

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Dear National Council Ambassadors,

As appropriations season kicks off in earnest, you should be aware of an emerging threat on the horizon that would affect the way Medicaid services are financed and delivered – with potentially devastating effects on providers and consumers. Check out Dispatch from Capitol Hill for more.

Here at the National Council, we strive to give you the latest information and resources to help you in your advocacy. This is where your hard work developing your relationships with your Members of Congress will pay off, as you exercise your influence in fighting against harmful changes to Medicaid!

Please let us know how we can be of assistance as you meet with your legislators and build those relationships. Thank you, as always, for all that you do!

Sincerely,

Chuck Ingoglia
Senior Vice President, Public Policy and Practice Improvement


UPCOMING ACTIVITIES

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Register for 2015 National Council Conference

When: Right now
Where:  Register here

If you haven’t already registered for NatCon15, April 20-22 in Orlando, do it today! The National Council is looking to celebrate you and provide you with advocacy-focused workshops, roundtable discussions and star-studded events. Register today!

Ambassador Talking Points: Monthly toolkit for meeting with your elected officials

When: April 22, 2015
Where: Your inbox

Later this month we will provide you with an Ambassador Talking Points: The Digest, highlighting the legislative activity in this new Congress so far. Stay tuned!

Ambassador Quarterly Call

When: April 30, 2015 at 3pm Eastern
Where: Register here

This call will feature special guest, Alfonso Guida from Guide Consulting, advocacy guru and federal mental health and addictions policy expert. Mr. Guida will provide an update on what’s moving in Congress and share insider tips and tricks on how to make your case to your elected officials. Don’t miss this chance to hear from one of behavioral health care’s most successful and effective advocates!


AMBASSADOR SPOTLIGHT

 

Speak up! Tell us about the great work you are doing in your community.

As the year rolls on, be sure to keep sharing the fantastic work you are doing so we can feature you here and share your stories with your peers!

Remember, your expertise and relationships in Congress have a huge impact on our policy agenda. For your Member of Congress, you are an expert, a resource and most importantly… a constituent. Your member wants to hear from you and so do we. Send us your success stories today!


DISPATCH FROM CAPITOL HILL

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Block Talk

The results are in: the House and Senate have passed their budget resolutions, and congressional appropriators can now get to work determining 2016 spending levels for federally-funded programs. When it comes to the budget, there’s one emerging threat that won’t be talked about anywhere in the annual appropriations bills – but it should be on your radar.

This year’s budget resolutions revive a proposal that has periodically popped up in discussions of entitlement reform: converting Medicaid to a block grant. Proponents of this approach usually portray it as a means for the federal government to control rising Medicaid costs by capping its annual contribution to each state’s Medicaid program. What block grant advocates don’t talk about is the potentially devastating effect on patients and providers.

A block grant puts pressure on states. Currently, Medicaid funding rises as enrollment increases or as enrollees need more services. Under a block grant scenario, states are limited to a fixed amount of spending in Medicaid – meaning that as enrollment or service utilization goes up, they’ll have to make cuts elsewhere.

Providers and consumers are at risk. Experience shows that two of the first places states look to save money in their Medicaid programs are provider pay cuts and benefit restrictions. Behavioral health providers and consumers living with mental illnesses or addictions shouldn’t have to shoulder the burden of Medicaid spending reductions.

Read our fact sheet on the Medicaid block grant proposal.

“Per capita caps” are block grants by another name. Some political analysts have speculated that the block grant proposal is the first step in a negotiating strategy designed to ultimately enact per-capita caps in Medicaid. These caps are essentially block grants by another name: they cap annual federal spending per Medicaid enrollee, allowing spending to rise as enrollment increases, but continuing to pressure states to cut benefits or service utilization as overall program funding shrinks.

We’ll be calling on you to help fight these proposals. Congress will likely use a special legislative vehicle – called a “reconciliation bill” – to move any Medicaid reform proposals. For now, legislators appear to be biding their time on drafting the reconciliation bill until after the Supreme Court hands down its decision in King v. Burwell. Once that happens, they’ll be able to decide the extent to which they want to use reconciliation to address the Affordable Care Act and reforms to entitlement programs like Medicaid.

The National Council will let you know when opportunities to take action against these harmful proposals arise. Stay tuned to our Ambassador communications for the latest info!


STATE OF PLAY

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Parity.  Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its long-awaited proposed rule outlining how the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act applies to state Medicaid programs. The rule will extend parity protections to an estimated 22.5 million Americans covered by Medicaid and CHIP, according to CMS. Read our deep-dive here.

Excellence in Mental Health Act. This week, the National Council participated in a meeting with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and other national patient protection and advocacy organizations to provide feedback on revised draft criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). These criteria will determine eligibility for organizations to participate in demonstration programs under the law. It is anticipated that the final criteria will be released in the next few months.

FY 2016 Federal Budget. Last month, both the House and Senate passed budget resolutions for FY2016 before departing for a two-week recess. The budget resolutions, while not having the force of law, set the topline funding levels for 2016. With the resolutions now approved, the 12 Appropriations Subcommittees in each chamber can begin work on allocating spending for the coming year. For more, read our summary here.


ADVICE AND COUNSEL

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Surviving NatCon15

The National Council Conference is right around the corner and we think it safe to say that this year is going to be our best conference yet. Not only because we have some of the world’s most interesting and innovative leaders joining us to discuss the future of behavioral health care, but because you are going to be there with us!

Our 200-page conference program is PACKED with all the information you need about NatCon15. To help you pick out what will be most interesting and enjoyable for you as an Ambassador, we have created something special just for you.

Surviving NatCon15: An Ambassador’s Guide to the National Council Conference 2015 highlights important public policy sessions we think will benefit you and your advocacy efforts while you’re with us in Orlando at NatCon15.

When you get to Orlando, there will be a lot of buzz about our exclusive network of superstar advocates. You’ll be recognized by your Ambassador ribbon and new lapel pin (hint: stop by the VIP reception on Sunday night to pick yours up, or ask at Registration). Be ready to share your story and tell people about the National Council Ambassador Network with the help of these talking points!

  1. The Ambassador Network is made up of superstar advocates: people who take time each year to establish and build relationships with their Members of Congress.
  2. It only takes a few hours a year to make a major difference in health policy. Our advocates are helping inform policy decisions that will shape the future of our field.
  3. Ambassadors serve as resources for their legislators and provide an influential voice in the halls of Congress.
  4. Anyone can be an Ambassador! Whether they are an executive, board member or someone with an interest in behavioral health policy who wants to be more involved, the Ambassador Network is for them!

If you meet someone interested in learning more about the National Council Ambassador Network, send them to Registration or just give them our contact info!

Rebecca FarleyRebeccaF@thenationalcouncil.org

Michael PetruzzelliMichaelP@thenationalcouncil.org

 


BRIEFLY NOTED

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Here are a few thought-provoking articles and resources that we’ve come across recently.  Happy reading!

“Congress passes a budget, now comes the hard part.” The International Business Times took a look at the road ahead for Congress after it agreed on budget resolutions at the end of last month. “’We’ve got a lot of tough issues to deal with here in the Congress,’ Speaker of the House John Boehner said Thursday. ‘We didn’t get elected to come here and sit on our rear ends. We’ve got work to do.’” Read more here.

 

National Council, BMW and Mental Health First Aid. The National Council spoke out about a recent ad from BMW featuring a “crazy” woman, calling for the company to pull the ad, noting the importance of programs like Mental Health First Aid.  “Our position is that if they were driving up to a hotel, and the person were having a coronary, they wouldn’t drive away,” said Linda Rosenberg, president and CEO of the National Council. Find out how BMW responded.