Congress Passes Tax Reform, Repeals ACA Individual Mandate
This week both the House and Senate passed a revised version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), sending tax reform to President Trump’s desk to become law. The TCJA will have major implications for the nation’s health care system through its repeal of the individual mandate and by adding $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit, which will likely limit what Congress will be able to spend on both discretionary and mandatory health programs, such as Medicaid, in the future. The National Council is deeply disturbed by the negative impact that will result from the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
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Congress Passes Stopgap Spending Bill to Avert Govt. Shutdown
Late Thursday evening, Members of Congress passed a stopgap spending bill to avoid a government shutdown before the federal funding deadline on Friday (Dec. 22nd). The new continuing resolution (CR) funds the government through January 19th and provides short-term funding extensions for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers. A number of questions regarding the long-term future of key health care issues will likely not be decided until January.
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Opioid Use among Teens at Historic Low with Vaping and Marijuana on the Rise
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) released its annual Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey results highlighting historic lows of cigarette, heroin and methamphetamine use and increases in vaping and marijuana use among adolescents. The study surveyed over 47,000 students in 8th, 10th and 12th grade in both public and private schools nationwide on their substance use and attitudes towards particular drugs.
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HHS Updates HIPAA Guidance, Highlights Responses to Opioid Epidemic
On Monday, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rolled out a bundle of new resources and initiatives that aim to address the ongoing opioid crisis. These new tools and initiatives are part of an obligation under the 21st Century Cures Act to ensure that the public understands the implications of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
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Republican Leaders Nearing Final Tax Deal, Release New Funding Bill
On Wednesday, Republican leaders in Congress announced that they had brokered a deal amongst themselves on their sweeping tax reform plan, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Republican leaders plan to bring the bill to the floor of the House and Senate next week and hope to have it signed into law by the New Year. House appropriators also introduced a spending bill to keep the government open until January 19th. The bill includes several health care measures, but is expected to undergo substantial revision to pass in the Senate.
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Capitol Hill Hearings Examine Patient Brokering, Addiction in Appalachia, and Cures Act
Congress hosted an assortment of hearings this week related to mental health and addiction. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee heard from SAMHSA Assistant Secretary Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz on the ongoing implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act as it pertains to mental health programs, and two separate House subcommittees examined aspects of the opioid epidemic, specifically the rise of patient brokering and opioid addiction in Appalachia.
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Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee Releases Report to Congress
On Thursday, the federal Interdepartmental Serious Mental Illness Coordinating Committee (ISMICC) released its first report to Congress detailing major barriers to treatment for individuals with serious mental illness (SMI). The ISMICC, created by the 21st Century Cures Act, recommended ways to improve government-wide coordination to address unmet needs of people with serious mental illness. Their recommendations highlighted expanding the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) program, improved payment rates for psychiatry, and more criminal justice system diversion and early identification and intervention services for children and young adults.
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Congressional Briefing Highlights Medicaid’s Role in Addiction Treatment
On Wednesday, the Partnership for Medicaid, a coalition that includes the National Council, hosted a Congressional briefing on the importance of Medicaid in supporting innovative addiction care. The day’s discussion focused on how Medicaid provides individuals with substance use disorders access to comprehensive care that not only addresses their addiction, but their physical and mental health needs. The briefing featured testimony from National Council member Mark Miller of Swope Health Services, who highlighted how Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) are leading the way in behavioral health care innovation and expanding access to addiction treatment.
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Tax Cuts, Budgets and More Fill Congressional To-Do List this Season
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is not lost on leaders here in Washington, D.C. As of this writing: Congressional leaders are negotiating a deal to avert a government shutdown; a conference committee has formed to hammer out differences between the House and Senate’s tax reform bills; and appropriators are quietly working on an end-of-year health care spending package that could include reauthorization of Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare extenders and more.
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Senate Subcommittee Convenes Hearing on Opioid Epidemic
On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies held a hearing to discuss the opioid epidemic and how Congress should address prevention, treatment, and recovery for opioid use disorders. The hearing convened national leaders on the issue, including the representatives of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Discussion highlighted the expansion of the Certified Community Health Center (CCBHC) demonstration as a way to dramatically expand opioid addiction treatment capacity in more states.
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