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Archive: March 2019

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.

Court Blocks Medicaid Work Requirements in Arkansas, Kentucky

March 28, 2019 | Waivers/SPAs | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Wednesday, a district court judge issued a pair of decisions blocking Medicaid work requirements in Kentucky and Arkansas. Consistent with an earlier ruling, the court found that the federal government had failed to justify how adding employment requirements advanced Medicaid’s central statutory objective to provide medical assistance to the state’s citizens. The impact of the ruling is likely to extend beyond these two states and complicate Trump Administration plans to expand Medicaid work requirements more broadly.

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New Report Details How Opioid Crisis Funds Are Being Used

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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) has published the first comprehensive report reviewing the estimated $11 billion allocated by the federal government for 57 different federal programs to address the opioid epidemic in 2017 and 2018. Funding has been used for a wide array of state-based programs, but states have primarily focused on creating treatment networks for opioid use disorder (OUD), financing treatment for at-risk individuals, making naloxone accessible and bolstering the addiction workforce. Unsurprisingly, the report found that Medicaid and Medicaid expansion have been critical in addressing the opioid epidemic. BPC recommends the federal government focus on sustainability, transparency, improved coordination among federal offices, and increased flexibility for states to address their unique needs.

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NatCon19 Showcases Behavioral Health Policy Landscape

March 28, 2019 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

This past week, over 6,000 attendees gathered in Nashville, TN for NatCon19, behavioral health’s premier conference. From inspiring fireside chats and keynotes to line dancing, NatCon19 had it all and provided the latest insights into policy challenges, solutions and guidance for behavioral health advocates. The consensus among health care leaders, government officials and innovative experts is that Medicaid waivers, state plan amendments, parity, and telehealth policy will continue to dominate the 2019 policy landscape for mental health and addiction treatment. NatCon19 attendees can access all presentation slides here with their badge number.

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CMS Releases Guidance on Work Requirement Waivers

March 21, 2019 | Medicaid | Waivers/SPAs | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

The Trump Administration this week continued encouraging states to weave work requirements into their Medicaid programs by releasing guidance on implementing, monitoring, and evaluating such changes. The new tools from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are meant to provide guidance on creating effective demonstrations under Medicaid waiver authorities, particularly for waivers permitting states to implement work requirements and other experimental eligibility and coverage policies. As the Administration moves toward approving such waivers in more states, the National Council remains vehemently opposed to these harmful policies as they restrict access to needed mental health and addiction services.

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Ohio Becomes 9th State to Receive Approval for Medicaid Work Requirements

March 21, 2019 | Medicaid | Waivers/SPAs | Comments
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Katiri Zuluaga

Manager, State Initiatives

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has approved Ohio’s Medicaid waiver to enact work requirements, even with legal challenges still pending in Kentucky and Arkansas for similar programs. Starting in 2021, Medicaid beneficiaries in Ohio not meeting certain exemptions will need to report 80 hours of “community engagement” per month to maintain coverage. Estimates indicate that approximately 18,000 people, about half of all eligible Medicaid beneficiaries, could lose coverage due to these new work requirements. The National Council for Behavioral Health remains strongly opposed to work requirements and other barriers that restrict access to needed behavioral health services.

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Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act Reintroduced

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Shelley Starkey

A bipartisan bill that would extend and expand the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) model was introduced Thursday (3/14) in both chambers of Congress by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Representatives Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). The Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ […]

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President Trump Releases FY 2020 Budget Proposal

March 15, 2019 | Federal Budget | Medicaid | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

On Monday, President Trump unveiled his Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 budget request — calling for $4.7 trillion decrease in federal spending and detailing his Administration’s priorities for next year. The document revives efforts to block grant Medicaid and restrict eligibility, maintains 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 is currently working to develop and pass a budget for FY 2020 over the next few months

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Congressional Briefings Discuss Threats to Mental Health Medication Access

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Shelley Starkey

A recently proposed rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), if enacted, would threaten Medicare Part D participants’ access to critical prescription drugs including those often needed by individuals living with mental illness. The Partnership for Part D Access, of which the National Council for Behavioral Health is a founding member, hosted […]

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Push to Expand Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics Continues

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Shelley Starkey

The National Council for Behavioral Health has been at the forefront of developing a national model for mental health and addiction treatment called Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs), created under the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. CCBHCs have been filling the gap in the unmet need for addiction care, supporting local criminal justice systems by providing effective diversion and reentry solutions, and increasing access to evidence-based behavioral health treatment across the country. As the end of the CCBHC demonstration looms, the National Council remains committed to expanding this critical and effective model.

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Congressional Briefing Urges Congress to Empower Addiction Workforce

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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Addiction workforce advocates presented on the Hill this week as part of a congressional staff briefing exploring opportunities for Congress to better equip front-line providers to prevent and treat opioid and other addictions. The hearing featured testimony from Mary-Catherine Bohan, representing a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) from New Jersey, who shared how the CCBHC model is transforming her clinic’s ability to hire addiction treatment professionals and serve more patients.

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Mental Health Treatment Wrongly Denied by Insurance Giant

March 8, 2019 | Mental Health | Parity | Comments
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Stephanie Pellitt

, National Council for Behavioral Health

In a landmark ruling, a federal court held Tuesday that health insurance giant United Behavioral Health (UBH), which serves over 60 million members and is owned by UnitedHealth Group, used flawed internal guidelines to unlawfully deny beneficiaries access to mental health and substance use treatment in an effort to cut costs. The ruling marks a validation for patients and providers who have long raised concerns that health plans were not fulfilling the requirements set forth in the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which established parity between the coverage of behavioral health and medical/surgical benefits.

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Tonko, Turner Reintroduce Bipartisan Addiction Treatment Bill

March 8, 2019 | Justice | Medicaid | Comments
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Shelley Starkey

A bipartisan bill that would allow states to restart Medicaid coverage for eligible incarcerated individuals up to 30 days before their release from jail or prison was introduced this week by Representatives Paul Tonko (D-NY) and Michael Turner (R-OH). The Medicaid Reentry Act (H.R. 1329) is an important step toward improving access to much-needed mental health and substance use services for one of the most vulnerable populations in the country.

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