President Trump Declares Opioid Epidemic a Public Health Emergency
Earlier today, President Trump officially declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. While the National Council is pleased to see the President recognize the opioid crisis as a public health emergency, today’s announcement comes without any new funding to respond to the epidemic and the specifics of the declaration are still unclear.
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House Committee Holds Hearing on Combating the Opioid Crisis
The House Energy and Commerce Committee convened a hearing to review the federal government’s response to the opioid epidemic on Wednesday. Lawmakers sought a status update on the implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), the 21st Century Cures Act, and various grant initiatives and from the heads of the top agency leads within the Department of Health and Human Services. The hearing reflected a bipartisan consensus that more resources are needed to tackle a disease that claims the lives of 91 Americans every day.
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Congressional Efforts to Stabilize ACA Markets Continue
Legislators have continued efforts to approve legislation that would aim to stabilize the individual insurance marketplaces for FY2018. Following months of bipartisan negotiations, Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) continue gaining support for their approach to the issue. As of last week, more than two dozen Senators had signed on as cosponsors. This week, though, a second proposal has been introduced, this time by Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Kevin Brady (R-TX).
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New Bipartisan Health Plan Would Keep ACA Subsidies
On Tuesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee leaders Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA) unveiled a bipartisan proposal to stabilize the individual insurance market through 2019. The deal follows President Trump’s announcement that his administration would no longer make cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers. The Alexander-Murry plan would restore this funding and bring market-based reforms and new flexibility to the states. The future of this bill is uncertain in wake of conflicting comments from President Trump and negative reaction from some members of the House of Representatives.
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Bill Introduced to Expand Charitable Giving Deductions
Representative Mark Walker (R-NC), has introduced the Universal Charitable Giving Act of 2017 (H.R. 3988) in the House, which would allow taxpayers who do not itemize their tax returns to write off a portion of their charitable contributions. This could help provide incentives for individuals to increase their charitable giving. However, if passed, this provision would likely be a part of President Trump’s larger tax reform package – a package that has raised concerns from numerous charitable organizations.
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CHIP Reauthorization Deadline Passes, Congress Still Yet to Vote
Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which currently provides comprehensive health coverage to roughly 9 million children and pregnant women, expired on September 30. While reauthorization bills have been discussed in both the House and the Senate, none have yet been passed. States are now working to cover the program’s entire cost without federal support until Congress approves reauthorization and President Trump signs it into law.
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Feds Approve West Virginia Waiver to Expand Addiction Treatment
On Tuesday, West Virginia received approval from the federal government to expand addiction treatment services covered by Medicaid to include residential treatment, methadone, naloxone, and more. The waiver is intended to provide Medicaid enrollees with a more comprehensive array of addiction services and to prevent opioid overdose deaths. West Virginia is the first state to receive approval from the Trump administration to waive an important payment barrier to residential addiction treatment, known as the IMD exclusion.
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Trump Signs Executive Order Setting Path to Expand Association Health Plans
On Thursday, President Trump signed an executive order (EO) to broaden availability of Association Health Plans (AHPs) and short-term health insurance policies. These health plans would be largely exempt from Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) coverage requirements and are seen as a potential threat to the stability of the health care marketplaces. President Trump has said the move will bring greater competition and lower premiums to insurance markets across the country.
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Keep the Hill Day 2017 Momentum Going
Last week, 700 advocates held over 300 meetings with Congressional members on Capitol Hill as a part of National Council Hill Day 2017. The energy was contagious with advocates directly voicing their stances on a host of legislative priorities. After this successful event, it is important for advocates to stay engaged and begin building and fostering relationships with legislators and their staff.
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Congress to Maintain Focus on Transforming Medicaid in FY2018
The new budget rules proposed in the House and Senate make clear that Congress will remain focused on passing sweeping, fundamental changes to the American health care system and Medicaid in FY2018. Though the narrative currently centers on tax reform, it is widely believed that if passed, immense cuts to Medicaid could help finance the Trump Administration’s tax reform plan. For mental health and addiction advocates, FY2018 is another year for advocacy, engagement and education.
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Excellence Act Expansion Bill Introduced in the Senate
Earlier this week, Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Doris Matsui (D-CA) introduced the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act, H.R. 3931/S. 1905 – legislation to expand and extend the Excellence Act demonstration program in Medicaid.
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700 Advocates Take to Capitol Hill at Hill Day 2017
This week the National Council for Behavioral Health, along with its 21 Hill Day partner organizations, hosted over 700 advocates for Hill Day 2017! The National Council and all Hill Day partners thank these advocates for their hard work, terrific advocacy and endless energy this week. Together, these advocates held over 300 meetings on Capitol Hill voicing unified support on a number of important legislative priorities.
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HHS Secretary Tom Price Resigns
Dr. Tom Price stepped down as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) last Friday, following controversial use of government funds to charter private jets for official travel. Dr. Don J. Wright, most recently the Acting Assistant Secretary for Health at HHS, has been designated by President Trump as the Acting Secretary of HHS until a permanent replacement can be identified. Eric D. Hargan was confirmed by the Senate to take on the role of Deputy Secretary of HHS on Wednesday.
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