Court Ruling Creates Uncertainty for ACA
Late last week, Judge Reed O’Connor found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to be unconstitutional following Congress’ repeal of the individual mandate penalty in 2017. Most importantly, the law remains in effect pending what is likely to be a lengthy appeals process. Nonetheless, the ruling will likely have significant impacts on the health care debate in Washington and around the country. The decision is expected to be appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which will likely consider it at some point in 2019, and the case could eventually be heard by the Supreme Court.
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NatCon19: The Best in Behavioral Health
On March 25-27th, behavioral health’s premier conference, NatCon19, will kick off in Nashville, TN. NatCon19 is where the best in behavioral health gather to learn from industry experts, take in world-class entertainment, keep up on the most innovative products, and make new connections. Policy and advocacy are always a special focus at NatCon. This year, our NatCon19 Policy Track will help you gain understanding of the latest policy challenges and solutions and guidance on how you can influence policy to better support clinics and patients.
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Congress Passes Criminal Justice Reform
Earlier this week, the Senate and House both voted to pass the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation to reform the nation’s criminal justice system. Notably, the First Step Act includes a reauthorization of the Second Chance Act, a law that supports state and local reentry programs to reduce recidivism and provides people leaving prison with post-release supportive services, including mental health and addiction treatment. President Trump is expected to sign the measure into law on Friday (12/21).
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National Council Files Comments Against Public Charge Rule
Last week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing submitted comments to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regarding the Trump Administration’s proposed rule that would allow legal immigrants to be denied lawful permanent residency if they enroll in Medicaid or other public benefits. The proposed rule would expand the definition of “public charge,” a test that determines if immigrants are likely to become dependent on government for subsistence, to include federal health, housing and nutrition programs. The National Council expressed strong opposition to the rule as it would deter legal immigrant families from seeking health care coverage, harming the health of millions of adults and children.
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New Federal Analysis of Behavioral Health Care Workforce Released
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) recently released national-level behavioral health workforce estimates for 2016 through 2030. The analysis, which was mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act, highlights how workforce shortages and an unequal distribution of providers have intensified access to care challenges for patients. HRSA reiterated that continued analysis on the behavioral health care workforce was essential to combatting the ongoing opioid crisis and noted that these findings aim to provide information on trends within the mental health and substance use disorder provider workforce.
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HHS Solicits Input on HIPAA’s Potential Barriers to Care Coordination
On Wednesday, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced a widely anticipated request for information on how the current Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy and security rules may impede the transformation to coordinated, value-based health care. HHS is welcoming comments on “how the rules could be revised to promote these goals, while preserving and protecting the privacy and security of such information and individuals’ rights with respect to it.” The announcement suggests that the agency may be considering big changes to HIPAA. Responses to the RFI are due February 11, 2019.
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National Council Survey Shows Providers’ Policy Priorities
In a few short weeks, Members of the 116th Congress will begin work on Capitol Hill. A new Congress equals new opportunities to improve the lives of individuals and families impacted mental illness and substance use disorders. To help prepare for the new Congress, the National Council’s Policy and Advocacy team recently surveyed National Council members to gather input on federal policy priorities for 2019 and beyond. Read more a for a summary of the results
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National Council Comments on Suicide Hotline Implementation
Earlier this week, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing submitted official comments to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging the agency to designate a 3-digit phone code as a Behavioral Health and Suicide Crisis Lifeline. The National Council’s comments aim to address a public notice issued by the FCC soliciting public opinion on the implementation of the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act. The Act, which was signed into law in August, tasks the FCC along with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) with studying and reporting on the feasibility of replacing the current behavioral health crisis hotline, 1-800-273-TALK, with a memorable three-digit code such as 411 or 611.
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CCBHC Expiration Presents “A Looming Crisis” for Addiction Care
Since launching in mid-2017, Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) have dramatically improved access to community-based addiction care in the eight states where they operate, particularly opioid addiction services. CCBHCs have hired hundreds of new addiction-focused clinicians, expanded medication-assisted treatment (MAT) and other addiction services, and reduced patient wait times. However, with the CCBHC program set to end in mid-2019, access to lifesaving treatment could be lost. A new National Council report shows that the end of the CCBHC demonstration would result in massive program closures, staff layoffs and reduced addiction treatment access for patients. The National Council is calling on Congress to act quickly to extend the life of this critical program.
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Law Enforcement & CCBHCs: Increasing Access to Treatment, Decreasing Recidivism
The National Council for Mental Wellbeing, in partnership with Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), hosted a Congressional staff briefing on Tuesday to highlight how Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) are partnering with their local law enforcement to connect community members to timely addiction and mental health treatment and help officers to focus more of their time on their main duty: keeping their communities safe. The briefing brought together law enforcement officers and clinic leaders who urged Congress to act quickly to pass the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 1905/H.R. 3931) to extend the CCBHC demonstration.
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Trump Administration Unveils More Options for States to Bypass ACA
Late last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma announced four new Section 1332 state innovation waiver concepts for states to make changes to their individual insurance markets (fact sheet). The new waiver concepts build on the recently issued CMS guidance on Section 1332 waivers, under which CMS aims to strengthen states’ authority to shape their health insurance markets. The Administrator stated in her keynote address at the States and Nation Policy Summit of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that it was a mistake to federalize so much of health care policy under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and that the new concepts are “designed to illustrate how states can waive certain ACA provisions under section 1332 of the law and develop alternatives to the ACA’s otherwise one-size-fits-all approach.”
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CMS Finalizes Changes to Medicare Quality Payment Program
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued final policy changes for Year 3 (2019) of the Quality Payment Program (QPP), as part of the final 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule rule. The final rule updates payment rates and key policies applicable to physicians and other professionals under Medicare. Most notably, the rule expands the types of clinicians (including clinical psychologists) that are eligible to participate in the QPP through the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).
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