White House, HHS Announce Major Actions on Opioid Epidemic
On Tuesday, President Obama and the Department of Health and Human Services announced a series of initiatives to address the nation’s ongoing and growing opioid epidemic, including: expanding the use of medication-assisted treatments like buprenorphine; finalizing regulations related to parity and needle exchange programs; and announcing new grants to combat the use and abuse of opioids.
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CMS Publishes Final Medicaid, CHIP Parity Requirements
On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published final regulations outlining how the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act applies to state Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance programs. This final rule extends parity to more than 23 million Americans covered by these important programs.
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Behavioral Health: It’s Hot on the Hill
In Washington, we are in the midst of the most proactive and important public policy shift in over a generation. From the implementation of the Excellence in Mental Health Act demonstration, to continued funding for Mental Health First Aid, to the Senate’s recent approval of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act – longstanding National Council priorities are beginning to see the attention they so rightfully deserve.
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New Parity Bill Aims to Hold Insurers Accountable for Behavioral Health Coverage
Congressman Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) has continued the work of his family, former Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Congressman Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), in ensuring that all Americans have access to quality behavioral health care. Through increased oversight and random annual audits, Rep. Kennedy aims to ensure that insurance providers are meeting their regulatory requirements in offering mental health services care at parity with medical care services.
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Hundreds March on Washington in First Ever Destination Dignity March
On Monday, hundreds gathered on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. calling for dignity, rights and support for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness and addictions. The inaugural Destination Dignity March focused on raising public awareness of these illnesses and the systematic discrimination individuals living with these disorders face in the public health and criminal justice systems. The march was organization by a coalition of mental health and addiction advocacy organizations, including the National Council.
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National Council Launches Redesigned Parity Website; Adds Section on Enforcement
In light of growing attention to the issue of federal parity law enforcement, the National Council has updated its parity website and added resources on enforcement efforts across the country. The updated site includes a document with summaries on state advocacy activities to increase parity enforcement and a webinar with case studies and strategies for working with State Attorneys General on lawsuits to ensure enforcement.
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National Council, AFSP Offer Mental Health Parity Guides Online
In the wake of growing national attention on states’ challenges with parity enforcement, the National Council is re-issuing a series of brochures compiled in partnership with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to help consumers navigate insurance coverage and understand their rights under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
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Senators Murphy, Cassidy Introduce Comprehensive Mental Health Reform Bill
Today, Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) introduced the Mental Health Reform Act of 2015, comprehensive legislation to reform the U.S. mental health care system. The legislation reauthorizes a number of programs within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), establishes workforce training and education programs for behavioral health providers, and affirms a commitment to providing evidence-based treatment services throughout federally funded mental health programs.
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National Council Releases Template Parity Comments; Submission Deadline is June 9
The National Council has finalized our comments in response to the recently released Medicaid parity proposed rule. Our comments commend the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for safeguarding beneficiaries’ access to mental health and addiction care under a variety of delivery system arrangements and for encouraging states to apply parity requirements for all Medicaid enrollees, even those whose coverage isn’t subject to the parity law.
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New York Attorney General Takes Strong Action to Enforce the Federal MH/SUD Parity Law
Recently, the New York State Office of the Attorney General announced the fifth in a series of settlement agreements (known as Assurances of Discontinuance) with health insurance plans that were found to have violated the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA). The federal parity law requires insurers that offer mental health and substance use disorder (MH/SUD) benefits to provide those benefits in no more restrictive way than other covered medical and surgical benefits.
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Proposed Rule Lays Out Medicaid Parity Requirements
Monday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its long-awaited proposed rule outlining how the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act applies to state Medicaid programs. The rule will extend parity protections to an estimated 22.5 million Americans covered by Medicaid and CHIP, according to CMS. It generally mirrors final regulations promulgated by CMS in 2013 that detail how parity applies to group insurance plans, with some key exceptions to account for differences in delivery system design between Medicaid and private insurance.
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National Council Sponsors Two-Day Health Forum at The Atlantic
This week, The Atlantic hosted its seventh annual Health Forum, bringing together physicians, researchers, advocates, legislators, practitioners and health policy thought leaders to examine a wide range of health issues. This two-day event, sponsored in part by the National Council, featured many topics surrounding behavioral health, including: a keynote interview with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) discussing her Excellence in Mental Health Act, health reform architect Ezekiel Emmanuel and overall trends in behavioral health, and Mental Health First Aid.
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National Council, AFSP Release Consumer Parity Guides
At a congressional briefing to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, the National Council and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention released a series of tools to help consumers navigate insurance coverage and understand their rights under the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
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Several House Committee Members Introduce Broad Behavioral Health Bill
Earlier this week, members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce – which oversees many policies related to mental health and substance use – introduced legislation to improve the U.S. behavioral healthcare system.
The Strengthening Mental Health in Our Communities Act (H.R. 4574) was introduced by Ron Barber (D-AZ), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Paul Tonko (D-NY).
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Share Your Experiences with Parity and Health Reform Rollout
The Coalition for Whole Health (CWH), of which the National Council is a member, is currently running a survey on the implementation and oversight of the Affordable Care Act and Parity. The survey consists of 16 questions and should take approximately 20 minutes to complete. This survey is critical to our field, as the information provided will help ensure that people around the country have access to mental health and substance use disorder care.
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New York Reaches Settlement with Insurer for Parity Violations
New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman last week announced a settlement with a health insurance company based on its violations of state and federal parity law. This settlement is groundbreaking because it is one of the first to be reached under the 2008 parity law, which prohibited insurance plans from placing restrictions on behavioral health coverage that are more stringent than those placed upon medical/surgical coverage.
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Historic Mental Health and Addiction Parity Rules Finalized
Last Friday, the federal agencies charged with implementing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act released their much-anticipated final regulations detailing how parity must be applied to insurance plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the historic announcement at the Carter Center Mental Health Symposium in Atlanta, noting that 62 million Americans are expected to gain access to comprehensive mental health and addiction treatment benefits under the law.
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