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Archive: February 2018

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.

Mental Health and Addiction Groups Call on Congress to Prioritize High-Impact SUD Programs

February 22, 2018 | Federal Budget | Comments

Shelley Starkey

Alongside the most recent budget deal, Congress allocated $6 billion over the next two years to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. In response, 27 mental health and addiction groups, including the National Council, called on Congress to direct the money into nationally-recognized, evidence-based programs and practices. These programs and practices include: mental health and substance use block grants, the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic program, the Opioid State Target Response grants and SAMHSA.

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HHS Releases Rule on Short-Term Health Plans

February 22, 2018 | ACA | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Trump Administration issued a proposed rule to expand the availability of short-term health insurance coverage. This move would expose more consumers to limited coverage health plans, including plans that lack mental health and substance use disorder benefits. The proposed rule comes from an executive order President Trump signed in October 2017 that directed federal agencies to loosen restrictions on short-term health insurance and association health plans to create less comprehensive coverage options.

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Trump Releases Budget Proposal, Seeks Medicaid Cuts and Opioid Funding

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Monday, President Trump unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 budget request — detailing his Administration’s legislative and regulatory priorities for next year. The document revives last year’s failed attempts to block grant Medicaid, boosts spending to combat opioid addiction, and outlines other major health care priorities. As with most presidential budgets, this proposal stands little chance of being enacted into law as written. Instead, the President’s budget proposal will act more as a messaging tool to Congress, which just passed a major budget deal boosting defense and non-defense discretionary spending limits last week.

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Family First Act Passed in Short-Term Spending Bill

February 15, 2018 | Children and Youth | Federal Budget | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act, a sweeping reform of the child welfare system as part of a larger spending package. The measure allows states to use federal foster care matching funds for prevention services addressing mental health, substance use and parenting skills to keep at-risk children from entering the foster care system. The Act also limits federal reimbursements for foster youth who are placed in congregate care settings. After coming close to passage in 2016, the Family First Act was tucked into last week’s massive budget deal, fast-tracking its enactment.

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Senate Strikes Budget Deal with Opioid, Health Care Funding

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, Senate leaders released a major bipartisan budget deal to lift the caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending. The deal is accompanied by a short-term spending package for the purposes of preventing a government shutdown and giving lawmakers time to draft specific appropriations bills. The deal sets federal spending for the next two years, boosting both defense and non-defense spending by a combined $300 billion. Importantly, the deal also provides $6 billion in funding to battle opioid addiction, a four-year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and renewal of community health center funding and Medicare extenders.

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Medicaid Work Requirements to be Enacted in Indiana

February 8, 2018 | Addictions | Medicaid | Waivers/SPAs | Comments

Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

Indiana is now the second state to receive approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a waiver request that imposes work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries to maintain coverage. Indiana’s Section 1115 waiver also enacts a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Program which will include coverage for residential treatment in Institutions for Mental Disease (IMD) and will increase premiums for beneficiaries who use tobacco and are not engaged in tobacco cessation activities. The National Council for Behavioral Health strongly opposes work requirements and any attempts to restrict access to needed behavioral health services.

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CMS Proposes Medicare Changes to Address Opioids

Shelley Starkey

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have released its proposed changes to Medicare Advantage and Part D plans for 2019, which include a few provisions to combat the opioid crisis. These changes come in reaction to the soaring opioid prescription and substance use disorder rates among Medicare beneficiaries. CMS is accepting public comments through March 5, and will publish its final rule on April 2.

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Congress Struggles with FY 2018 Spending Deal

February 1, 2018 | Federal Budget | Comments

Shelley Starkey

The federal government has been funded by short-term deals since September 30 last year. Congress must reach another deal by Thursday, February 8, to keep the government’s doors open. With a handful of policy issues on which both Republicans and Democrats seem reluctant to budge, the next steps for a long-term fiscal year (FY) 2018 funding solution remain unclear.

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Trump Talks ACA, Drug Prices and Opioids During SOTU

February 1, 2018 | ACA | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments

Stephanie Pellitt

Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump used his first State of the Union address to tout repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate, reiterate his promise to reduce prescription drug prices and vow to address the opioid epidemic with an enhanced focus on criminal justice. Although the speech lacked health care specifics, the address did serve to highlight President Trump’s most pressing health care priorities heading into his second year as Commander-In-Chief.

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