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Archive: June 2017

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.

Senate Health Care Vote Delayed Until After July 4 Recess

June 29, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that he will not hold a vote on the Senate’s health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), this week and will instead wait until after the weeklong July 4 recess. McConnell and others are continuing to work quickly to gather the 50 votes needed to pass a bill that guts Medicaid funding by $772 billion over ten years and ends Medicaid expansion. Now is the time for advocates to enhance their efforts while Senators are home during recess to pressure them to “vote NO” on the Better Care Reconciliation Act.

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22 Million People Would Lose Coverage under Senate Health Bill, CBO Says

June 29, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act will result in huge reductions of Medicaid coverage and funding, according the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) analysis released this week. The Senate health bill, entitled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA), is projected to roll back coverage for 22 million Americans, including 15 million who would lose Medicaid coverage, and cut $772 billion dollars from Medicaid, shifting the burden of health care costs to states. A vote on this legislation is expected after the July 4th recess, giving advocates more time to urge their Senators to “vote NO” on this harmful bill.

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Bipartisan House Bill Aims to Expand Medicare Coverage for Mental Health Services

June 29, 2017 | Medicare | Workforce | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A new bipartisan House bill would create greater access to mental health care in rural communities across the country. The bill – the Mental Health Access Improvement Act (H.R. 3032) – would allow marriage and family therapists (MFTs) and licensed mental health counselors to directly bill Medicare for their services. Similar legislation has been introduced in previous sessions of Congress and again has the support of the National Council.

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CMS Proposes New Medicare Payment Rule

June 29, 2017 | Medicare | Comments

Elizabeth Arend

Quality Improvement Advisor

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule that will make changes to the Quality Payment Program (QPP) under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The Quality Payment Program is part of a larger effort to reform the way clinicians are reimbursed by Medicare by moving from volume-based payment to payment for quality and value. The proposed rule describes how clinician participation in QPP will change in 2018 and beyond. The proposal will take effect on January 1, 2018 and will apply to 2020 Medicare Part B reimbursements. The vast majority of behavioral health organizations that bill Medicare Part B will be subject to these changes in 2017 and 2018.

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Senate Rushing to Vote on Huge Medicaid Cuts Next Week

June 22, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

On Thursday, the Senate released a draft of its health care bill to gut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Despite earlier claims that the Senate would create a more “generous” bill, their proposal goes even further to destroy Medicaid and Medicaid expansion. The bill is likely to be amended and scheduled for a vote next week.

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National Council’s Dr. Parks Testifies at First Meeting of President’s Opioid Commission

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis convened its first meeting last week, hearing testimony from national experts, including National Council Medical Director Dr. Joe Parks. Dr. Parks and others presented recommendations for effectively treating opioid addiction and expanding access to addiction services. Panelists also noted the significant role of Medicaid in paying for addiction and mental health treatments, citing concerns regarding proposed Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

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Senate Bill to Support Reentry Programs Reintroduced

June 22, 2017 | Justice | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Last week, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Danny K. Davis (D-IL) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce relapse and provides people leaving prison with post-release supportive services, including mental health and addiction treatment.

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Senate Moving Fast to Cut Medicaid, End Expansion

June 15, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Senate negotiations on health care, including major changes to Medicaid, are moving forward with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell still aiming to hold a vote prior to the July 4 recess. Despite the huge impacts of Medicaid restructuring and funding cuts, Senate leaders have yet to release the text of their bill and, in an extraordinary move, plan to bypass the committee process completely. It is critical that mental health and addiction advocates contact their Senators over the next two weeks and urge them to oppose any health care legislation that cuts Medicaid funding.

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HHS Secretary Defends Trump’s Proposed Medicaid Cuts to Congress

June 15, 2017 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Dr. Tom Price testified at two congressional hearings last Thursday to defend President Trump’s FY2018 budget request. The Administration’s budget request released last month would cut an estimated $665 billion over ten years from HHS’s budget, derived mostly from cuts to Medicaid. Secretary Price faced scrutiny from both House and Senate members about the impacts the proposed Medicaid cuts would have on beneficiaries.

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Senate Moves Closer to Vote on ACA Repeal, Medicaid Cuts

June 8, 2017 | ACA | Medicaid | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced this week that the Senate will hold a vote on ACA repeal by the end of this month, even though no bill language has yet been introduced or considered by the full Senate. Additionally, the House’s American Health Care Act passed an important procedural hurdle this week, clearing the way for the Senate to pass their own health reform bill with a simple 51 vote majority. These developments elevate the need for more action from National Council advocates to protect Medicaid and behavioral health care.

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“Morning Joe” Co-hosts to Headline Hill Day 2017

June 8, 2017 | Hill Day | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The National Council is pleased to announce this year’s Hill Day keynote speakers, Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, co-hosts of Morning Joe, one of the most popular and influential shows on politics. Each year, the National Council gathers hundreds of behavioral health advocates on Capitol Hill, where attendees learn expert advocacy strategies and gain first-hand advocacy experience in meetings with their Members of Congress. Don’t miss the chance to hear Scarborough and Brzezinski’s insights on health care, mental health, and addiction on October 2-3 at Hill Day 2017!

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NIH Announces New Science Initiative on Opioids

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) last Wednesday announced a joint initiative with pharmaceutical companies to spur the development of drugs to address the opioid epidemic. It will start with a series of private workshops over the next six weeks and focus on three areas. Specifically, the initiative will focus on developing interventions for reversing opioid overdoses, discovering new treatments for opioid addiction, and seeking non-addictive treatments for chronic pain.

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Senate Health Care Deliberations Continue, Share Your Concerns Today

June 1, 2017 | ACA | Take Action | Comments

Michael Petruzzelli

Manager, Policy and Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Republican Senate members worked over the Memorial Day recess this week in the hopes of finding consensus around their version of legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. During this crucial deliberation period, Senate leadership is said to be monitoring public opinion on how it should move forward on health care legislation, making this the perfect time to take action and voice your support of the Medicaid program. This week, the National Council is urging all advocates to capitalize on this opportunity and speak up to protect Medicaid expansion and the Medicaid program from per capita caps or block grants.

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HHS Announces $70 Million to Address Opioid Crisis

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy and Advocacy Associate

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced the availability of over $70 million to help communities and health care providers treat opioid addiction with three new grant opportunities. The grants are directed to train first responders in overdose reversal procedures; expand access to medication-assisted treatment; and expand access to overdose reversal medications like naloxone. These initiatives are funded through Congress’s recently passed omnibus spending package for FY2017.

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