Health Reform Update: New Amendment Has Congress Moving Forward on Repeal and Replace
A new amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) would give states greater authority to roll back key provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including the essential health benefits and protections for those with pre-existing conditions. This amendment could be particularly harmful to those with mental illness and addiction as it would create greater barriers to accessing care and having these important services offered at parity with primary care services. The National Council remains opposed to this legislation and is calling on advocates to speak up today to urge legislators to vote “No” on AHCA.
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Trump Taps Nominee for Asst. Secretary of Mental Health and Substance Use
President Trump announced this week his pick for the first-ever Assistant Secretary of the Mental Health and Substance Use. Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, currently serving as the Chief Medical Officer for Rhode Island’s Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals, served two years under President Obama as the Chief Medical Officer at SAMHSA. Created as a part of the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016, this position must be confirmed by the Senate.
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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy Dismissed, Replaced by Deputy
Last Friday, Vivek Murthy was asked by the Trump Administration to resign as U.S. Surgeon General. His deputy, Sylvia Trent-Adams, will act as a temporary replacement. Serving as Surgeon General since 2014, Dr. Murthy made great advancements in promoting addiction as a public health issue, and produced the office’s first comprehensive report on addiction in America.
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Budget, ACA Subsidies Take Center Stage as Congress Returns from Recess
When Congress returns from recess on Monday, it will have just one week to finalize a budget deal keeping the government open for the remainder of the 2017 fiscal year. President Trump’s budget request for this year calls for cuts of more than $50 billion dollars to pay for an increase in military spending. While these negotiations continue, health insurers are working with the Administration to secure more than $7 billion in cost-sharing subsidies through the Affordable Care Act. It remains to be seen how these decisions will impact major health care reform legislation.
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CMS Finalizes Rule to Stabilize Insurance Market, Relaxes Network Adequacy
Last Thursday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its highly anticipated final rule on stability in the individual and small group insurance markets, including the exchanges. The agency said the rule is designed to provide “short-term relief for patients and issuers now” but cautioned that it would not represent a “long-term cure.” The final rule keeps most of the changes the Department of Health and Human Services proposed in February – including more flexibility in the way insurers can calculate the value of their coverage and deferring network adequacy requirements to the states.
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Proposed Wisconsin Waiver Restricts Medicaid Eligibility, Enrollee Benefits
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plans to enact a series of restrictions that would limit Medicaid eligibility and restrict enrollees’ use of Medicaid benefits. The recently proposed 1115 Medicaid waiver would require drug testing, institute premiums, and limit how long enrollees can receive benefits while not working. Wisconsin’s proposal is the latest in a series of state waiver requests to limit beneficiaries’ participation in the Medicaid program.
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While Health Care Remains Unclear, Advocates Must Remain Vigilant
President Trump this week recommitted himself to finalizing a health care deal before moving on to other legislative items. While Congress remains at home on recess, negotiations continue among both congressional leadership and rank-and-file legislators working to build consensus among the majority members. However, with conflicting reports on the progress being made as well as a crowded legislative calendar upon Congress’ return, it is still difficult to decipher how close Congress is to passing a health care law.
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APA, ASAM Host Congressional Briefing on Opioid Crisis
Last Thursday, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) partnered with the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) to host a Congressional briefing addressing the current opioid epidemic, which took the lives of over 33,000 Americans in 2015. The briefing gathered researchers, practitioners, and individuals whose lives have been affected by opioid abuse to give their personal and professional insights on the crisis. The discussion focused on the importance of acknowledging opioid addiction as a medical problem, understanding treatment options, fighting negative perceptions about individuals with addiction, and increasing funding for effective treatment programs.
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HRSA Releases Grants to Strengthen Behavioral Health Workforce
On Wednesday, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) released applications for the FY 2017 Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program. The agency plans to award up to 150 grants totaling $44 million to increase the number of behavioral health providers serving populations across the lifespan, particularly in rural and underserved areas. While behavioral health providers cannot apply directly for the funds, award recipients will need to partner with community providers to ensure job placement and internship opportunities for students.
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Negotiations Continue but No Deal Yet on Health Care Reform
Discussions and negotiations continued this week to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Administration officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, hosted meetings on Capitol Hill and at the White House with members of the House Freedom Caucus and the more moderate Tuesday Group – working to find consensus on a path forward. Despite reports of progress on this initiative, no formal plan or bill has been introduced and agreement does not seem likely at this time. Congress is now on a two-week recess for the Easter holiday.
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New Senate Bill Mandates Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs
Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Rob Portman (R-OH) have introduced legislation mandating the creation and use of strict prescription drug monitoring programs by states who receive federal funding to fight opioid abuse. The Prescription Drug Monitoring Act would require states to require pharmacies to submit data within 24 hours of filling a prescription. Providers would have to check the PDMP before each prescription of the drugs, and PDMPs would have to notify providers when patients showed worrisome opioid prescription patterns.
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