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Archive: July 2014

Capitol Connector
Your source for the latest updates from Capitol Hill. We translate policy into practice so you can learn how policy trends will affect your work and how best to prepare.

Senate Committee Releases Proposed 2015 Healthcare Appropriations; SAMHSA Sustains Small Cuts

July 31, 2014 | Federal Budget | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) in fiscal year 2015 would sustain a 1.5 percent cut under the Senate Appropriation Committee’s budget recommendations, released online earlier this week. Overall, the committee recommends $3.577 billion for SAMHSA, a decrease of $53 million from 2014 but $10 million more than President Obama’s budget request.

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Congressional Negotiators Strike Deal on Veterans Health Bill

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tuesday, committee leaders in the House and Senate announced they had struck a compromise on the Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare bill, allowing the stalled bill to resume moving toward passage. The approximately $17 billion agreement addresses VA physician and medical staff hiring; provides for physical infrastructure improvements; expands upon the VA’s ability to contract with external providers for services; and addresses recent scandals related to long waiting lists and botched care at VA facilities.

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IRS Outlines Draft Employer Mandate Compliance Requirements

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last Thursday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) posted draft forms that businesses will have to complete in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain employers offer health insurance to their employees, known as the “employer mandate.” Final drafts and detailed instructions for the forms are expected to be released in the coming months. The employer mandate applies to most organizations – including healthcare provider organizations – with more than 50 full-time employees, defined as employees who work 30 hours per week or more.

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SAMHSA Seeks Comments on Strategic Plan

July 30, 2014 | Uncategorized | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released its draft strategic plan for the next three years. “Leading Change 2.0: Advancing the Behavioral Health of the Nation 2015-2018” outlines SAMHSA’s proposed work across six Strategic Initiatives:

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Breaking Addiction Act Introduced in Congress

July 24, 2014 | Addictions | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

New legislation introduced in Congress would improve Americans’ access to substance use treatment by scaling back a federal payment exclusion for services provided in residential settings. Introduced by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH) and Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) with eight cosponsors, the Breaking Addiction Act of 2014 (H.R. 5136) would establish a five-year demonstration project for 8-10 states in which federal reimbursement would be permitted for Medicaid services provided in certain residential settings known as “Institutes for Mental Disease.”

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With Congress Deadlocked, Omnibus Spending Bill Likely

July 24, 2014 | Federal Budget | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In recent weeks, congressional leaders have quietly acknowledged the growing likelihood of an omnibus appropriations bill, given the stalemate between Democrats and Republicans over amendments to fiscal year 2015 spending bills.

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Two Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings on Legality of Federal Insurance Subsidies

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tuesday, two appeals courts issued conflicting decisions on a central piece of the Affordable Care Act: the availability of federal insurance subsidies to help lower-income Americans purchase insurance in their state’s health insurance exchange.

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New Mexico State Auditor Seeks Greater Federal Oversight of NM Department of Human Services

July 24, 2014 | Medicaid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

New Mexico State Auditor Hector Balderas last week issued a letter to his state’s congressional delegation urging stronger federal government oversight of the New Mexico Department of Human Services (DHS). The letter comes a year after DHS began investigating 15 community behavioral health provider organizations for Medicaid fraud. During the investigations, Medicaid payments were suspended, forcing some organizations to close down and thousands to go without needed mental health and addictions care.

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Senators Host Women and Addiction Forum; Linda Rosenberg Moderates

Kirsten Reed

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On July 22, the National Council co-sponsored a forum hosted by Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) on women and addiction. Nationally-recognized researchers, practitioners, policymakers and Members of Congress including Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Senator Rob Portman, Senator Kelly Ayotte, Senator Amy Klobucher, and Michael Botticelli, Acting Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy discussed policy priorities to help women in treatment for addiction.

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Congressional Staff Learn Value of Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety

July 17, 2014 | Mental Health First Aid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Mental Health First Aid can help improve law enforcement officers’ responses to individuals in behavioral health crises and make communities healthier, said a panel of speakers at two Wednesday briefings on Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. The briefings were sponsored by the National Council, with Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and Mark Begich (D-AK) and Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Ron Barber (D-AZ).

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CMS Launches Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program

July 17, 2014 | Medicaid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Building on the work of the National Governor’s Association’s (NGA) Health Care Sustainability Task Force and the National Association of Medicaid Directors (NAMD), the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week announced a new technical assistance initiative – the Medicaid Innovation Accelerator Program (IAP), under which the agency intends to collaborate with states to deploy innovative delivery and payment system reforms to improve the quality and reduce the cost of care provided to Medicaid beneficiaries.

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Medication Assisted Treatment is Subject of CMS Informational Bulletin

July 17, 2014 | Addictions | Comments
pills

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an Informational Bulletin highlighting the use of FDA-approved medications in combination with evidence-based behavioral therapies—commonly referred to as “Medication Assisted Treatment” (MAT)—to help persons with mental health and substance use disorders recover in a safe and cost-effective manner. The bulletin provides background information about MAT, examples of state-based initiatives, and useful resources to help ensure proper delivery of these services.

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HHS Proposal Allows for Auto-Reenrollment in Exchange Plans

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight has released a proposed rule and guidance specifying procedures for health insurance exchange enrollees to remain auto-enrolled in the same plan for the 2015 open enrollment period. While the guidance is intended to ease the process of re-enrollment, some consumer groups have cautioned that unwitting consumers could experience premium rate or benefit changes if they do not receive adequate information about their reenrollment.

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2014 National Drug Control Strategy Emphasizes Prevention, Treatment

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Obama Administration released the 2014 National Drug Control Strategy, the fourth since its inaugural report in 2010. The plan outlines the administration’s approach to reducing drug abuse and preventing and treating substance use disorders.

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Will You #BhTheChange?

July 9, 2014 | Tobacco and Smoking | Comments

Aishwarya Rajagopalan

Health Policy Intern

What do social media, the National Council, and tobacco cessation efforts have in common?

Nearly half of all deaths among people with behavioral health conditions are due to tobacco related causes. While nationwide prevalence of smoking continues to decrease (current rates stand at 18.1%), the smoking rate for people with behavioral health conditions ranges anywhere from 40% (major depressive disorder) to 98% (substance use disorders). Similarly, this population is nearly 2.6 times more likely to develop cancer than the general population, primarily due to irregular screening and delays in treatment.

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Data Highlight Substance Use Link Among Arrestees

July 9, 2014 | Addictions | Justice | Comments

Alanna Tievsky

Policy Associate

On June 12, the Office for National Drug Control policy (ONDCP) released the results of the 2013 Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Report (ADAM II) with new data underscoring the link between crime and substance use. Patterned on an earlier ADAM project, the survey gathered information from five counties on drug use and related issues from booked adult male arrestees within 48 hours of their arrest.

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Negotiations Underway to Reconcile Rival Behavioral Health Bills

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The lead sponsors of rival behavioral health reform bills are meeting to negotiate a deal that may have a chance of moving forward in Congress this year. Congressmen Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ron Barber (D-AZ) led a bipartisan group of legislators in meeting last Tuesday to identify where the two bills have common ground and […]

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Sen. Rockefeller Pushes for Four More Years of CHIP Funding

July 1, 2014 | Medicaid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On June 11, Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced legislation that would extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through fiscal year 2019. Absent Congressional action, funds for the CHIP program will expire on September 30, 2015.

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