NIDA Invites Public Input on Strategic Plan, Drug Abuse Research Priorities
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is now accepting public comments on its Strategic Plan, which outlines a framework for the research it will support over the next five years.
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CCIIO Clarifies Non-Discrimination Requirements in Letter to Health Plan Issuers
In its annual draft guidance outlining the criteria and requirements by which health insurance plans can be certified to provide coverage through Healthcare.gov, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) has provided clarification on its standards for non-discrimination in plan design, network adequacy, and contracting with “essential community providers.”
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HELP Committee Members Urge Continued Efforts to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse
Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Lamar Alexander (R-TN) led HELP committee senators in sending letters to national, state and local leaders calling for continued commitment to curbing the prescription drug abuse crisis. The letters highlighted the committee’s key priorities to combat this problem and asked for recipients to keep the HELP Committee informed of ongoing efforts to solve this growing epidemic.
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Medicare Updates CMHC Conditions of Participation to Recognize Same-Sex Marriages
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced it is updating its Conditions of Participation (CoPs) for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) to bring them into compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision on same-sex marriage in United States v. Windsor. Under the new guidance, CMHCs and certain other Medicare-participating providers will be required to recognize clients’ same-sex marriages according to the law of the state where they were performed, regardless of whether such marriages are legal in the state in which the CMHC is located.
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MAPRx Coalition Submits Comments on 21st Century Cures Initiative
Earlier this month, the Medicare Access for Patients Rx (MAPRx) Coalition, of which the National Council is a member, submitted comments on the Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures initiative. 21st Century Cures is a wide-ranging legislative initiative designed to foster comprehensive improvements and innovation in the U.S. health system. The MAPRx comments, submitted to Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), proposed recommendations for improvement to the Medicare Part D Program.
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Congress Approves 2015 Appropriations; National Council Looks Ahead to 2016 Budget Debate
Capping a week of political drama, the Senate on Saturday night gave final approval to a House-passed budget bill that funds most government agencies through September 2015. Passage came after several days of procedural maneuvering that could have killed the bill’s passage. President Obama signed the $1.1 trillion bill into law on Tuesday, giving lawmakers a few months of breathing space until the 2016 budget debates begin early next year.
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Perspectives on Interoperability and Using Data Segmentation for Information Privacy
Most behavioral health providers don’t need to be schooled in the complexities around sharing “specially protected” patient health information (PHI). Ensuring adherence to the many rules and regulations at both the state and federal levels is a formidable, but familiar, challenge.
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CMS Releases Final Elements of Home and Community Based Services Toolkit
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week released final elements of the Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) toolkit. This toolkit, first released in March, is intended to assist states in implementing the requirements of the final HCBS regulation for residential and non-residential settings. In this final release, CMS provided a set of explanatory questions and answers on the applicability of the rule in non-residential settings as well as broad information regarding implementation of the final regulations.
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Tennessee Governor Proposes Expansion of Medicaid
This week, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced plans to expand Medicaid in the Volunteer State. Tennessee is now the third state to announce an expansion of Medicaid since the midterm elections in November. Chris Wyre and Bob Vero, Board Members of the Tennessee Association of Mental Health Organizations and members of the National Council, were asked to stand with Governor Haslam as he made his announcement.
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House Poised to Pass 2015 “Cromnibus” Spending Package
As of late Thursday morning, a $1.014 trillion spending bill that will fund most of the government through September looked headed for passage in the House despite complaints from members of both parties about certain provisions included in the bill. The spending bill comes just in the nick of time to avert a government shutdown that would occur at midnight tonight without congressional action. The bill largely maintains 2014 funding levels, though some agencies (including the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) would see small cuts.
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House Introduces Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Companion Bill
This week, six members of the House introduced their version of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. Introduced by Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), Bobby Scott (D-VA), Tom Marino (R-PA), Karen Bass (D-CA), David Joyce (R-OH) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), this is a companion bill to the Senate version, S.2839, which was introduced in September. The legislation would provide a series of resources and incentives to help states and local governments expand drug treatment, prevention, and recovery efforts.
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National Council Submits Comments on Supportive Housing Regulations
Last week, the National Council submitted comments to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) commending its efforts to fully implement two supportive housing statutes. The comments, written in conjunction with the Corporation for Supportive Housing, urged HUD to issue further clarification on multiple fronts, clarifying the scope and depth of the proposed rule. The comments also recommended changes throughout, ensuring affordable housing options for individuals with mental health conditions and addictions disorders.
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HHS Releases Updated Health IT Strategic Plan
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released an updated draft of their Federal Health IT Strategic Plan 2015-2020. The “Draft Plan,” prepared by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology, builds upon the administration’s previous Strategic Plan from 2011 and supports the continued advancement of widespread health IT adoption.
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Behavioral Health IT Coalition Hosts Congressional Briefing on Interoperability
On December 3, the Behavioral Health IT (BHIT) Coalition held a briefing for congressional staff to discuss how mental health and addiction treatment communities are addressing health information exchange and electronic health record (EHR) interoperability. This was the fourth briefing held by the coalition urging congressional action to include behavioral health providers in the EHR financial incentive program, called Meaningful Use.
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Open Enrollment Continues, Enroll America Releases “Get Covered Tools”
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released updated enrollment data for the second annual open enrollment period, which began on November 15. In the first two weeks, more than 765,000 people enrolled in a health insurance plan with 48 percent of these enrollments being “new consumers”. An additional 1.5 million people have submitted applications for insurance to determine their eligibility for coverage.
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Exchange Plans Raise Costs of Specialty Drugs for 2015
A new study from the health care consulting firm Avalere finds that qualified health plans sold on the federal and state marketplaces continue to use formulary tiering as a method for holding down premium costs, forcing consumers to pay more for certain specialty medications.
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New National Initiative Announced: Mental Health Disorders in Jails
The National Council has joined a new national initiative led by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center to advance counties’ efforts to reduce the number of adults with mental and co-occurring substance use disorders in jails. On December 9th, 2014, U.S. Senators John Cornyn (TX-R) and Al Franken (MN-D), in conjunction with NACo and CSG, will host a congressional briefing to underscore the bipartisan commitment to prioritize this issue for the 114th Congress and highlight the new wave of national efforts aimed at reducing the overwhelming number of people with mental health disorders cycling through U.S. jails.
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