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Archive: March 2015

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.

House Passes Bill to Fix Medicare Physician Payments, Reauthorize CHIP

March 26, 2015 | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the House passed the latest attempt to permanently repeal the complex Medicare physician payment formula – the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula – and replace it with one that links reimbursement to the quality of care provided. This move could put an end to the annual “Doc Fix” debate that is perennially required to forestall scheduled Medicare physician pay cuts.

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Senate to Vote on Hundreds of Amendments to Budget Resolution

March 26, 2015 | Federal Budget | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This morning, the Senate kicked-off a “vote-o-rama” on the 2016 budget resolution during which they will vote on hundreds of amendments. Though the budget resolution does not have the force of law, it does outline the constraints within which the appropriations committees must allocate funding for the year ahead. It may also include instructions to congressional committees to consider specific policy changes that could have sweeping effects on programs that support mental health and addiction treatment providers.

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Medication Access Barriers Topic of Focus at International Mental Health Conference

March 26, 2015 | Medicaid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A study administered by the National Council for Behavioral Health and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) found many common insurance and state Medicaid policies may negatively impact patient health and impose a major workload on psychiatrists that takes time away from patient care and other important duties. Authors from the study, including representatives from the National Council, will share their findings this weekend at “Mental Health Policy and Economics Research: Improving Access, Quality and Outcomes”, the Twelfth Workshop on Costs and Assessment in Psychiatry hosted by the International Center of Mental Health Policy and Economics (ICMPE).

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House, Senate Budget Proposals Would Convert Medicaid to Block Grant

March 19, 2015 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

his week, the House and Senate Budget Committees released their proposed budget resolutions for 2016, calling on Congress to convert Medicaid to a block grant, repeal the Affordable Care Act, and balance the budget within 10 years, without net tax increases.

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National Council Sponsors Two-Day Health Forum at The Atlantic

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, The Atlantic hosted its seventh annual Health Forum, bringing together physicians, researchers, advocates, legislators, practitioners and health policy thought leaders to examine a wide range of health issues. This two-day event, sponsored in part by the National Council, featured many topics surrounding behavioral health, including: a keynote interview with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) discussing her Excellence in Mental Health Act, health reform architect Ezekiel Emmanuel and overall trends in behavioral health, and Mental Health First Aid.

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New Senate Bill Aims to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, Senator Tom Udall (R-NM) reintroduced legislation aimed at combatting prescription drug abuse and misuse. The bill, cosponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN), would increase patients’ access to prevention services and treatment; strengthen prescription drug monitoring programs; strengthen training for medical professionals; and authorize new grant programs to increase patient assessment and referral for potential drug abuse.

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Mental Health First Aid Act Introduced in the Senate

March 12, 2015 | Mental Health First Aid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Just days after First Lady Michelle Obama called on the nation to “flip the script” on mental health, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015. This legislation would provide funding to train Americans in Mental Health First Aid. The bill was introduced by Senators Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and […]

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National Council Submits Comments on SAMHSA Block Grant Application

March 12, 2015 | Addictions | Federal Budget | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the National Council submitted comments to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on its draft FY 2015-2016 Block Grant application. The draft application introduced several important changes from prior years, including a provision that would allow the Substance Abuse and Prevention Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant to be used to cover co-payments for people in substance use treatment.

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“Good Samaritan” Legislation Aims to Reduce Opioid Overdose

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation that would offer legal protections to first responders, family members and volunteers who are educated to administer opioid overdose prevention drugs. The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act was introduced by Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

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Obama Budget Proposal Shifts $8.86 Billion in Costs to Lowest-Income Medicare Beneficiaries

March 9, 2015 | Federal Budget | Medicare | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Buried in President Barack Obama’s 2016 budget proposal is a little-noticed provision that could make prescription drug coverage unaffordable to some of the lowest-income, most vulnerable beneficiaries in Medicare Part D, including those who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. The proposal is part of a package of changes that together would reduce federal Medicare spending by $423 billion between 2016 and 2025, according to the White House.

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First Lady Highlights Mental Health First Aid as Key to Shifting the Conversation on Mental Health

March 5, 2015 | Mental Health First Aid | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

First Lady Michelle Obama yesterday called on the nation to “flip the script” on mental health by breaking through the silence and stigma surrounding these conditions. Obama gave a ringing endorsement to Mental Health First Aid as a key tool in this fight, noting that “it really gives you the skills you need to identify – and ultimately help – someone in need. Because you never know when these kinds of skills might be useful.”

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Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Protect Medicare Enrollees’ Access to Mental Health Medications

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

New legislation in Congress would protect Medicare enrollees’ access to mental health medications by codifying an open access requirement that came under attack last year. The bipartisan Medicare Formulary Improvement Act (S. 648) is a response to a widely-condemned attempt by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services to limit patients’ access to these drugs – an effort that would have had a devastating effect on millions of Americans who rely on these therapies for their health and well-being.

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Supreme Court Hears Case on Affordable Care Act Subsidies

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in the King v. Burwell case, the second major challenge to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since its enactment in 2010. For the second time, the fate of the law hangs in the balance. In this case, the court is being asked to rule on whether the law allows the federal government to offer premium subsidies to consumers who purchase health insurance in the federal marketplace, Healthcare.gov. If the federal subsidies are found to be against the terms of the law, consumers in 37 states would lose financial assistance for their insurance plans, potentially making plans unaffordable to millions.

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Senate, House Lawmakers to Push Mental Health Reform

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) outlined plans to introduce a pair of mental health reform bills next month. Rep. Murphy plans to reintroduce a version of a House bill he pushed in the last Congress – the Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act – while Sen. Murphy said he plans to introduce a slightly different bill in the Senate around the same time.

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New Legislation Would Help Build Health Care Workforce

March 4, 2015 | Workforce | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation introduced in the House of Representatives this week would provide millions of dollars to states to help build and advance the health care workforce. The bill, led by Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-CA), authorizes states to create scholarships to help fund the advanced education of health care professionals. The bill also creates grants to develop and promote new competencies, including education and training for mental health and substance use providers.

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CMS Releases Comprehensive Assessment of Quality Measures, Reporting Programs

March 4, 2015 | Medicaid | Medicare | Quality | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Yesterday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released an assessment of quality measures intended to improve the delivery of health care services. The report – completed every three years – examines the effectiveness and impact of each measurement and outlines the performance these measures are having on patients. According to the report, these quality measures are improving care for patients, leading to smarter spending and healthier people.

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