House Subcommittee Approves 56 Opioid Bills
On Wednesday, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved 56 of the 63 opioid bills pending before the Committee in a largely bipartisan fashion. The wide-ranging package of opioid bills includes many National Council priorities such as expanding access to substance abuse treatment through telemedicine, building up the addiction treatment workforce and encouraging quality standards for recovery housing. This week’s Subcommittee vote keeps the full Committee on track to advance legislation to the House floor no later than Memorial Day.
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Opioid Crisis Response Package Moves Forward in Senate
On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously voted to approve the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, a large, bipartisan package of potential solutions to the ongoing crisis. The bill (S. 2680), introduced by Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA), would next have to be approved by the full Senate before heading to the House for additional consideration and debate.
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National Council Releases First-Ever Recovery Housing Guide for States
On Monday, April 23, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing published the first-ever policy guide for expanding quality recovery housing entitled Building Recovery: State Policy Guide for Supporting Recovery Housing. It calls on states to adopt recovery housing quality standards, establish a certification program and support recovery residences as they work to meet nationally-recognized standards. In the guide, the National Council recommends concrete policies and practices that policymakers can enact to strengthen the road to recovery from addiction.
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Over 600 Advocates Are Heard at Hill Day 2018
On Wednesday, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, along with 18 Hill Day partner organizations, hosted over 600 advocates who took to Capitol Hill for Hill Day 2018. The National Council and Hill Day partners thank these advocates for unifying their voices in support of key legislative priorities, including the continuation and expansion of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). Advocates were energized by two days of NatCon18 and a rousing call to action from Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) before flooding congressional offices to voice their support on a host of mental health and addiction-focused legislative issues.
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Behavioral Health Organizations Host First National Rally to Prevent Suicide
Last Saturday, thousands assembled on the steps of Capitol Hill to support Congressional bills related to suicide prevention and quality mental health care. Hosted by the National Council for Suicide Prevention (NCSP), the Rally to Prevent Suicide featured speakers from suicide prevention organizations, families from those lost to suicide, and individuals with previous suicide attempts.
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CBO Releases Economic Outlook, Future Health Care Spending Report
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the country’s annual budget deficit will reach $1 trillion by 2020 in a new report released this week. The annual report was delayed this year to incorporate analysis on the impact of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in late 2017. The report highlights not only growing deficits but also growing health care spending for programs like Medicare, Medicaid and social safety net programs.
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Congressional Briefing Highlights Veterans’ Mental Health Programs
Last week, the American Psychological Association (APA) and the RAND Corporation hosted a Congressional briefing to discuss the complex behavioral health needs of American veterans and their families. The expert panel included researchers, veterans, and clinicians who highlighted nongovernmental programs that are working in the space. Much of the day’s discussion centered on how to better engage the 40 percent of veterans that need care, but are not connected to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
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Opioid Legislation Takes Center Stage in House and Senate
This week, both chambers of Congress spent time negotiating legislation to combat the opioid crisis. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) Committee held a second hearing on the draft Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. Simultaneously, the House Energy & Commerce Health Subcommittee held its final opioid-focused hearing to review 30-plus bills focused on opioid-related coverage and payment issues in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Committee leaders Chairman Walden (R-OR) and Chairman Alexander (R-TN) appear to want to move quickly, aiming for floor votes by the summer.
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CMS Rule Weakens Essential Health Benefits Requirement
On Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final 2018 health insurance marketplace rule, which includes proposals affecting the individual and small group markets. Overall, the rule shifts decision making authority for several significant exchange policies to the states, including the scope of the Essential Health Benefits (EHB). Most importantly, the EHB changes will allow states to choose less comprehensive coverage for mental health and addiction services, hindering patient access to care and raising out-of-pocket costs for many consumers.
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Trump Orders Review of Medicaid, Other Safety-Net Programs
On Tuesday, President Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to initiate a review of social safety-net programs, including Medicaid. The stated goal of the review is to have fewer individuals enrolled in Medicaid and other safety-net programs and increase their workforce participation. The order will likely provide momentum to Medicaid work requirement proposals from states and could expand to large-scale entitlement reform. The National Council strongly opposes work requirements and any other proposal that would seek to limit ability of individuals with mental illness and addiction to receive care through Medicaid.
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CMS Finalizes Medicare Changes, Tightens Opioid Policies
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released final rules for Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage (MA) plans for calendar year 2019 that are meant to tackle the opioid crisis and decrease drug costs. The CY19 Rate Announcement and Call Letter represents CMS’ priorities for the next year, and will implement new requirements on opioid prescribing and monitoring, require lower co-payments for prescription drugs under Part D, increase availability to generics and, hopefully, decrease costs for consumers and the federal government.
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Senate Releases Draft of Opioid Crisis Package
On Wednesday, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee leadership released a large package of legislation related to the opioid crisis aimed at strengthening addiction treatment access, developing non-opioid pain medications and creating new programs to curb the crisis. This package, called the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018, builds on the series of hearings the Committee has convened since October 2017. It also comes on the heels of opioid response strategies released by the White House and the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee. Both the House and the Senate aim to markup their respective bipartisan legislative packages before summer.
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HHS Secretary Appoints New Senior Advisor for Opioid Policy
On March 29th, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar announced the reassignment of Dr. Brett Giroir to serve as senior opioid advisor at HHS. Dr. Giroir, who previously served as HHS Assistant Secretary for Health, will now oversee the department’s opioid-related policies. Giroir is a four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which supports national improvement of behavioral health.
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