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Archive: March 2016

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.

White House, HHS Announce Major Actions on Opioid Epidemic

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of initiatives to address the nation’s ongoing and growing opioid epidemic, including: expanding the use of medication-assisted treatments like buprenorphine; finalizing regulations related to parity and needle exchange programs; and announcing new grants to combat the use and abuse of opioids.

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CMS Lifts Medicaid Rule, Expanding Access in Tribal Areas

March 31, 2016 | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it would be lifting a longtime payment prohibition, allowing Medicaid-eligible individuals who are American Indians and Alaska Natives to receive care through any Medicaid facility. Previous regulations only allowed for this population to receive such benefits through Indian Health Service/Tribal health facilities. This new interpretation will expand access to community-based services for over 2 million Americans who are eligible for Medicaid coverage through IHS.

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CMS Publishes Final Medicaid, CHIP Parity Requirements

March 30, 2016 | Parity | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published final regulations outlining how the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act applies to state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs. This final rule extends parity to more than 23 million Americans covered by these important programs.

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House GOP Budget Would Slash Spending, Block Grant Medicaid

March 24, 2016 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-OK) officially released a GOP budget resolution for FY2017 which would establish top line spending targets for government spending. To date, Congressional Republicans are still at odds within their own party when it comes to agreeing to a topline spending total for the next fiscal year. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) was clear on Tuesday saying that without an agreed upon spending total, House appropriators would be unable to move funding bills to the floor, bringing to a halt the budget and appropriations process.

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Providers to Get Due Process Protections for Alleged Fraud in New Bill

March 24, 2016 | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A new bill in Congress establishes due process protections in Medicaid for health care providers in cases of alleged fraud. The Medicaid Program Integrity Enhancement Act (S. 2701/H.R. 4802) – introduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Representative Ben Lujan (D-NM) – has been a priority for the National Council since 2012, after a group of New Mexico behavioral health clinics were forced to close their doors when the state Medicaid agency suspended all payments to the clinics amid allegations of fraud. The shuttered clinics represented the majority of all community-based behavioral health safety net providers in New Mexico, leaving low-income residents with a crisis in access to lifesaving mental health and addiction care.

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New Legislation Would Block Federal Overtime Rule

March 24, 2016 | Workforce | Comments

Jacquelyn Sommer

, National Council for Behavioral Health

A controversial overtime pay proposal would be stopped in its tracks under new legislation introduced this week in the House and Senate. The Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act would force the Department of Labor to nullify its proposed rule raising the salary threshold for overtime pay and conduct a full economic impact assessment before issuing a new rule. . The introduction of the legislation came as the White House Office of Management and Budget embarked on its review of final changes to the proposed rule, the last step before a regulation becomes law.

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CARA: What’s Next?

March 17, 2016 | Addictions | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Senate overwhelmingly approved the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524), also known as CARA. This was the first major success in the long process of turning a bill into a law. It is a tremendous accomplishment and should be celebrated as such by advocates across the country. But the fight is not over yet. There is still much to be done to see this bill through to passage.

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New Bill Expands EHR Incentives to Behavioral Health Providers

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Thursday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation that would expand federal electronic health record incentive payments to include a number of behavioral health providers. The bill – the Integrating Behavioral Health through Technology Act (S. 2691) – would establish a pilot program in five states, providing financial incentives for the adoption and use of interoperable electronic health records. This legislation is based on earlier National Council-supported legislation to expand incentives to include all providers.

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Behavioral Health: It’s Hot on the Hill

Linda Rosenberg

President and CEO of the National Council for Behavioral Health

In Washington, we are in the midst of the most proactive and important public policy shift in over a generation. From the implementation of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, to continued funding for Mental Health First Aid, to the Senate’s recent approval of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act – longstanding National Council priorities are beginning to see the attention they so rightfully deserve.

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Comprehensive Addiction Bill Passes Senate

Jacquelyn Sommer

Manager, Policy & Advocacy

In a near-unanimous vote, the Senate today approved the Comprehensive Addictions and Recovery Act, the first standalone bill to pass the Senate in years. Known as CARA (S.524), the legislation authorizes much-needed funding for evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery programs to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids. The bill passed the Senate with a bipartisan vote of 94-1 and now moves to the House for consideration.

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Medicare Commission Proposes Restrictions to Antidepressant Access

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) released a draft recommendation that would remove two classes of drugs from the six protected classes under Medicare Part D. The proposed changes would restrict patients’ access to immunosuppressants and antidepressants, a move that could prevent Medicare beneficiaries from accessing the most appropriate, clinically indicated medication for their condition.

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House Speaker, Budget Chair Pitch FY17 Budget Resolution

March 10, 2016 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Medicare | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Chairman of the House Budget Committee Tom Price (R-OK) introduced a budget resolution setting top-line funding numbers for fiscal year 2017. Despite pushback from fiscal hawks in Congress, who wished to see an additional $30 billion in cuts, the resolution’s $1.07 trillion in discretionary spending aligns with the amount agreed upon between the White House and congressional Republicans in the bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 2015. However, Ryan and Price have also promised a separate initiative to cut $30 billion in mandatory spending from entitlement programs over two years.

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Addictions Reform Bill Nears Vote on Senate Floor

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A comprehensive addiction reform bill is likely headed for a floor vote in the US Senate – the first standalone addictions bill to receive such a vote in years. This week, the bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524) has been the center of attention in the Senate, receiving a number of proposed amendments as the full chamber considers the bill. A long-standing policy priority of the National Council, CARA authorizes much-needed funding in evidence-based prevention, treatment and recovery supports to help Americans struggling with addiction to heroin or opioids.

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New Senate Bill Would Expand Bed Limit of Residential SUD Treatment

March 3, 2016 | Addictions | Medicaid | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A new bill in the Senate would modify existing Medicaid payment prohibitions and expand the bed limit for residential treatment facilities serving persons with substance use disorders. Known as the “Institutes of Mental Disease (IMD)” exclusion, this payment exclusion prevents Medicaid from providing federal matching funds for services provided in residential substance use settings with more than 16 beds, hindering patients’ access to care. The Medicaid Coverage for Addiction Recovery Expansion (CARE) Act – introduced by Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Angus King (I-ME) – would increase the bed limit in these settings from 16 to no more than 40, greatly expanding the number of facilities capable of servicing this population. The Medicaid CARE Act would allow facilities to offer treatment services for up to 60 consecutive days.

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Bipartisan Opioid Bill Would Allow Patients to Partially Fill Prescriptions

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A recently introduced bipartisan, bicameral opioid bill would allow patients the right to partially fill opioid prescriptions. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 70 percent of adults who misuse prescription opioids get them from friends and relatives. The Reducing Unused Medications Act (S. 2578/H.R. 4599) – introduced by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Steve Stivers (R-OH) – aims to limit the over- prescription of opioids and curb the nation’s growing opioid abuse epidemic.

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