FY 2020 Health Spending Package Passes House
Last week, the House passed its fiscal year 2020, Defense-Labor, Health and Human Services, Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bills, which include funding for federal mental health and addiction programs. The $1 trillion package would prioritize funding to address the opioid crisis and increase medical research. The minibus passed largely along party lines and is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate as currently written. Importantly, Congressional leaders from both parties and President Trump will need to work out a larger deal to lift impending budget caps before September 30th, 2019 for any spending bill to become law.
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VA Launches Veterans Community Care Program
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) this week announced improvements to the way the agency collaborates with non-VA, community health providers by ending the Veterans Choice Program and establishing a new Veterans Community Care Program. The new changes aim to provide better access to high-quality health care for the 9 million veterans served by the VA by expanding eligibility for community care, providing a new urgent care benefit, and modernizing and streamlining certain processes.
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Health Groups Convene Briefing on Medicare Out-of-Pocket Caps
On Tuesday, the MAPRx Coalition, which includes the National Council, hosted a Congressional staff briefing featuring a panel of advocates representing the AIDS Institute, the American Cancer Society, the National Council on Aging and Avalere Health. Speakers provided an overview of how Medicare Part D offers access to prescription drugs and the need for legislation that would place a cap on out-of-pocket costs for these medications. Currently, costs for medications that treat life-threatening illnesses such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, which often co-occur with mental illness and substance use disorder, amount to tens of thousands of dollars per year per person. If Congress does not act, these expenses are set to increase in 2020, having a devastating impact for over 1 million Medicare enrollees.
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House Passes Funding Extension for CCBHC Demonstration
On Tuesday, the House voted to pass the “Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019 (H.R. 3253),” which would extend funding for certain Medicaid programs. Under the provision, funding for the eight-state Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) demonstration program would be extended for another two and a half years until December 21, 2021. There was overwhelming bipartisan support of H.R. 3253, passing with a vote of 371-46. The bill must now go to the Senate for a vote before the CCBHC demonstration program expires on June 30th, 2019.
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National Council Member Testifies in Support of Extending CCBHCs
On Tuesday, Mary-Catherine Bohan of Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care (UBHC), a National Council member and Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in support of the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act (S. 824/ H.R. 1767). The legislation would extend the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC) Medicaid demonstration program in its original eight states for two years and expand the program to 11 other states that applied but were not originally selected. The CCBHC program is set to expire on June 30th, 2019 if Congress does not act.
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