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Archive: April 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.

Breaking Addiction Act Introduced in House

April 30, 2015 | Addictions | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation to expand Medicaid patients’ access to residential substance use treatment has been introduced in the House by a group of Ohio lawmakers. The Breaking Addiction Act (H.R. 1988) would direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to approve state applications for Medicaid 1115 waivers to cover services in certain residential settings.

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Ask Your Member of Congress to Recognize May as Mental Health Month

April 30, 2015 | Take Action | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Members of Congress are circulating a House Resolution recognizing May as Mental Health Month. Representatives Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) have released a “Dear Colleague” letter asking for support from Members of Congress to help raise awareness and spark important dialogue about federal activities to address mental illness.

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Latest Draft of 21st Century Cures Draft Bill Released by House Committee

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing to discuss the recently updated discussion draft of the 21st Century Cures legislation. The comprehensive draft aims to spark improvements and innovation throughout the US health system. Of particular importance to behavioral health providers is the inclusion of placeholder language indicating that the final bill will address health information technology and telehealth practices, important initiatives that had been rumored to be on the chopping block earlier this month.

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The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Needs Your Help: National Call-in Day

April 30, 2015 | Addictions | Take Action | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the National Council is uniting with advocates and organizations across the country in support of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA). CARA is the most expansive bipartisan legislation to date for addiction treatment and recovery support services, and we need your help urging Congress to pass this important bill!

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Register Today for National Council Hill Day 2015!

April 23, 2015 | Hill Day | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

National Council Hill Day is right around the corner. Held in partnership with seven other national advocacy organizations, the National Council’s Hill Day is the largest behavioral health advocacy event of the year and we want you to be there with us! Register today.

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Justice and Mental Health Legislation Introduced in the House, Senate

April 23, 2015 | Justice | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, bipartisan legislation to support collaborative programs between criminal justice and mental health agencies was introduced in the House and Senate. Similar legislation was introduced in 2013, but hit a snag after two Senators placed it on hold and the legislation never received a vote.

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National Council, Relias Learning Launch Certificates of Excellence

April 23, 2015 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the National Council, in partnership with Relias Learning, launched a new certification program to support behavioral health treatment providers. “Centers of Excellence” are the pinnacle of the new certification program that offers providers a guide to help advance their practices into the 21st century.

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Mental Health First Aid Act Introduced in the House

April 16, 2015 | Mental Health First Aid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Mental Health First Aid Act now has a companion bill in the House of Representatives. On Thursday, Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced the Mental Health First Aid Act of 2015. This important legislation would provide funding to train Americans in Mental Health First Aid. Identical legislation was introduced in the Senate last month, also with bipartisan support.

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SAMHSA Updates Criteria for CCBHC Certification

Nina Marshall

Director of Public Policy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration (SAMHSA) gave behavioral health stakeholders a preview to its changes for the certification criteria for Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs). The National Council is very encouraged by the changes that we heard discussed during last week’s listening session, and think they go a long way towards making this a meaningful and viable program. Some of the more significant changes we heard discussed include:

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New York Attorney General Takes Strong Action to Enforce the Federal MH/SUD Parity Law

April 16, 2015 | Parity | Comments

Gabrielle de la Gueronniere, JD

Legal Action Center

Recently, the New York State Office of the Attorney General announced the fifth in a series of settlement agreements (known as Assurances of Discontinuance) with health insurance plans that were found to have violated the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). The federal parity law requires insurers that offer mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits to provide those benefits in no more restrictive way than other covered medical and surgical benefits.

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CMS Proposes Important Updates to EHR Incentive Program

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

For behavioral health providers participating in Electronic Health Records (EHR) Meaningful Use incentive program, there is a lot to like in the recently-proposed rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Over the last few weeks, CMS has released proposed updates to the incentive program that seek to simplify reporting requirements for providers and align program objectives and measurements throughout all three stages of Meaningful Use.

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The National Council Conference Heads to Orlando!

April 16, 2015 | Uncategorized | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council Conference is almost here! Starting Sunday, the nation’s premier specialty health care conference kicks off in Orlando, Florida. This year, the National Council is thrilled to be hosting thought leaders and innovators shaping the future of our field. Conference headliners include former Secretary of State General Colin Powell, health care reform expert Ezekiel Emanuel, and outspoken advocate Ashley Judd.

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Medicare Physician Payment Reform Passes Senate, Now Moves to White House

April 15, 2015 | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation to reform the Medicare physician payment formula overwhelmingly passed the Senate last night and now heads to the White House where it is expected to be signed by President Obama. The signing of this legislation will stave off looming 21 percent cuts to physician reimbursements and end a perennial headache for legislators and providers alike.

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SAMHSA Releases New Guidance on Medication Assisted Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

New guidance for expanding the use of medication-assisted treatment was issued last week by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA). The tool aims to help providers expand access to treatment for those living with alcohol dependence or abuse. Produced in partnership with the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the guidance provides additional information on medications used to treat alcohol use disorder.

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Proposed Rule Lays Out Medicaid Parity Requirements

April 7, 2015 | Parity | Comments

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

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. It generally mirrors final regulations promulgated by CMS in 2013 that detail how parity applies to group insurance plans, with some key exceptions to account for differences in delivery system design between Medicaid and private insurance.

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Supreme Court Ruling Prohibits Medicaid Providers from Suing States for Higher Pay

April 2, 2015 | Justice | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Supreme Court of the United States handed down a decision on Tuesday that prohibits private health care providers from suing state Medicaid agencies for higher reimbursement rates. Instead, the Court ruled that such disputes over payment should be resolved by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – dashing that litigation could yield pay increases for struggling providers.

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House, Senate Approve FY 2016 Budget Resolutions

April 2, 2015 | Federal Budget | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, both the House and Senate passed budget resolutions 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. In years when the Senate and House pass competing appropriations, a conference committee is formed to reconcile the differences.

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SGR Deadline Passes, Medicare Processing Will Stall Payment Cuts

April 2, 2015 | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Although the Medicare “doc fix” deadline has come and gone without legislative action by the Senate, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) ensured providers it will do all it can to prevent the 21% payment cuts from taking effect. In a release yesterday, CMS acknowledged its efforts to limit the impact on providers and beneficiaries by holding claims for a short period of time beginning on April 1st.

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Veterans Mental Health Bill Introduced in the Senate

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

New veterans mental health legislation would expand access for veterans to receive mental health services. The bill – The Prioritizing Veterans Access to Mental Health Care Act of 2015 – would amend a veterans health law passed in August and remove barriers imposed by the law to care for veterans in need of mental health services.

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Without “Doc Fix” Bill, Important CMS Provisions Expired on April 1

April 2, 2015 | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In addition to the expiration of the temporary fix preventing a scheduled 21% cut to Medicare physician pay, a number of provisions affecting providers expired at the end of March (also called “extenders”). The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) updated providers on these expired provisions as it begins taking necessary steps to implement these changes. CMS said in a statement, that it “is working to limit any impact to Medicare providers and beneficiaries as much as possible.”

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