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Archive: November 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.

#Fundthe24: A Grassroots Movement for Excellence Act Expansion

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Over the last two weeks, support for expanding the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration project has grown in communities and states across the country. This week, a national op-ed – signed by 23 state mental health and substance use associations – will be published in The Hill, calling for the full funding of planning grant states. With the year’s end approaching, there is a time-limited window for a possible expansion – and we need your help to seize this opportunity.

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Medicare Advisers Discuss Potential Threat to Protected Classes Policy

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) attempted to eliminate protected status for antidepressants and antipsychotics in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans. After strong bipartisan opposition from both legislators and advocates alike, CMS abandoned its proposal but left the door open for future action. Last week, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) took an important step toward that action when it considered proposed policy options for Medicare, including the possibility of eliminating protected status for two of the protected drug classes, without specifying which classes would be affected.

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CMS Announces Funding for Outreach Activities to Enroll Children in Medicaid and CHIP

November 19, 2015 | Children and Youth | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week announced $32 million in grant funding to support outreach efforts to families with children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The program, known as Connecting Kids to Coverage Outreach and Enrollment Grant funds, aims to educate the public and enroll children and families in health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP.

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CMS Finalizes Essential Health Benefits Benchmark for 2017

November 12, 2015 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized Essential Health Benefits benchmark plans for 2017. The essential health benefits are the minimum coverage floor for health plans sold on the state and federal marketplaces, as well as Medicaid expansion plans. While each state determines its own essential benefits, all plans must include 10 categories of coverage – including mental health and substance use.

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As Shutdown Deadline Draws Near, Appropriators Continue Work on Funding Levels

November 12, 2015 | Federal Budget | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

With another government shutdown deadline looming, congressional appropriators are continuing to hammer out line-item funding levels for fiscal year 2016. While an omnibus spending package is expected, debate over whether to allow individual policy amendments to remain on a comprehensive funding measure is stalling progress. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) has stated he is open to including “riders” on final legislation, while House Democrats have strongly opposed such additions. Remember, in order for the President to approve funding legislation, the House and Senate appropriations packages must be identical.

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CMS Announces Availability of New Medicare Part D Opioid Drug Mapping Tool

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In the midst of a national opioid epidemic, a new tool from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) allows providers to track the number of opioid prescription claims in their communities, counties and states. The tool – The Opioid Heat Map – shows local level data of de-identified Medicare Part D opioid prescription claims, comparing it to data across the country. With this new tool, providers will now be able to see real time Medicare data on the prescription of opioids across the country.

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House Subcommittee Approves Amended Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act

Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Lawmakers on a key health subcommittee yesterday approved amendments to Representative Tim Murphy’s Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act, sending the bill on to consideration by the full House Energy and Commerce Committee.

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CMS Final Rule Outlines Process to Ensure Meaningful Access to Medicaid Services

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a final rule this week aimed at strengthening Medicaid beneficiaries’ access to essential health care services. The rule establishes a framework for CMS to make better informed, data-driven decisions for both patients and providers. In particular, it focuses on the direct impact provider reimbursement has on patients’ ability to receive services. CMS is accepting comments on the rule until it goes into effect on January 4, 2016.

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Senate HELP Committee Holds First Mental Health, Substance Use Hearing of the Year

Bianca Desai

Policy and Practice Improvement Intern

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing with three top government officials to discuss priorities, challenges, and opportunities facing the mental health and substance use treatment community. This is the first in a series of hearings examining the federal government’s role in supporting and funding behavioral health programming. Key issues raised during the hearing include: the results of the RAISE study, federal efforts surrounding suicide prevention, and the cultivation of the behavioral health workforce.

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