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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

National Council Submits Recommendations in Response to Senate Finance Committee Letter

September 29, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Senator Max Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee

The National Council has developed a letter in response to the recent Senate Finance Committee request for recommendations on how to improve the behavioral healthcare system.

In August, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) published an open call to the behavioral healthcare community requesting input on how to improve the mental health system in the U.S.  The Committee asked for input on three key questions:

  1. What administrative and legislative barriers prevent Medicare and Medicaid recipients from obtaining the mental and behavioral health care they need?
  2. What are the key policies that have led to improved outcomes for beneficiaries in programs that have tried integrated care models?
  3. How can Medicare and Medicaid be cost-effectively reformed to improve access to and quality of care for people with mental and behavioral health needs?

The National Council’s letter describes challenges related to low reimbursement for community behavioral health services, insufficient availability of integrated care, insufficient coverage of substance use disorder treatment, and others. We urge the committee to:

  • Increase federal investments in the community behavioral health safety net by enacting the Excellence in Mental Health Act
  • Support care coordination and integration efforts by enacting the Behavioral Health IT Act (S. 1517/H.R. 2957)
  • Improve Americans’ access to substance abuse treatment by issuing subregulatory guidance through CMS
  • Conduct an examination of mental health benefits in Medicare and expand Medicare to cover Medicaid services such as case management, psychiatric rehabilitation, and peer supports.
  • Cover services provided by Licensed Professional Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists under Medicare

The National Council encourages our member organizations to submit recommendations to the Senate Finance Committee as well; please feel free to use our letter as a template for your own comments or draw from it as needed. Contact Chuck Ingoglia or Rebecca Farley for assistance or questions. Comments are due to mentalhealth@finance.senate.gov by September 30.