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Capitol Connector

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.

Historic Mental Health and Addiction Parity Rules Finalized

November 14, 2013 | Parity | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

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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Online Training Courses Help Behavioral Health Providers Learn Critical Business Skills

November 7, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

As healthcare insurance options are set to expand in every state in 2014 – making an additional 30 million people eligible for coverage – behavioral health service providers need the business operation skills to expand capacity while remaining profitable. In order to help providers gain and enhance their abilities, SAMHSA has developed a national, online […]

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Conditions of Participation Issued for Community Mental Health Centers

November 7, 2013 | Medicare | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

For the first time, community mental health centers offering partial hospitalization services under Medicare must meet specified Conditions of Participation, under guidance released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week. The six Conditions of Participation (CoPs) establish requirements for client care, staff and provider operations, and quality measurement. The CoPs apply to community mental health centers (CMHCs) that participate in Medicare as partial hospitalization providers.

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Medicare Physician Pay Fix Advances

November 7, 2013 | Medicare | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Leaders of two key Congressional committees have agreed on a framework to scrap the current Medicare physician payment formula and replace it with one that would link reimbursement to the quality of care provided – a step that could put an end to the annual “Doc Fix” debate.

Without congressional action, Medicare physicians will suffer a major cut in pay rates this January. The cut is required under the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula, which compels Medicare to adjust payment rates each year to align with a predetermined rate of growth in the program. In practice, this has meant that Medicare payments would take an ever-increasing yearly cut – but each year, Congress has passed legislation postponing those cuts.

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Congratulations, Sue Abderholden! Advocacy Leadership Award Winner

October 31, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congratulations to Sue Abderholden, Executive Director of NAMI-Minnesota, for winning a 2013 Advocacy Leadership Award! Sue and her team achieved outstanding successes in children’s mental health policy this year, expanding access to services and supports for vulnerable youth across the state.

Head over to the Hall of Honor blog to read more about Sue’s accomplishments. Want to learn more and get advice for similar efforts in your state? Contact us to be connected to Sue.

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The ACA’s Employer Mandate Explained: Alliance for Health Reform Toolkit

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Beginning in 2015, most large employers will have to offer health insurance to their employees or face a fine. The “employer mandate,” as it is known, applies to organizations with more than 50 full-time employees, defined as employees who work 30 hours per week or more.

The Alliance for Health Reform has released a new toolkit outlining key facts, data, and resources about the ACA’s employer mandate. If you’re an employer with more than 50 full-time employees, here are three important facts that you need to know:

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FDA Recommends Tighter Regulations on Opioid Painkillers

October 30, 2013 | Opioid and Heroin Epidemic | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

In a major policy shift, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week recommended tighter controls on certain types of opioid medications prescribed for the treatment of pain. The changes are expected to take effect next year, pending approval from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The drugs at issue contain a combination of the narcotic hydrocodone and an over-the-counter painkiller such as acetaminophen (examples include the brand-name drugs Vicodin and Lortab, as well as their generic equivalents).

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ACA Expands Coverage for Immigrants, but Enrollment Challenges Remain

October 29, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

When the Affordable Care Act takes effect January 1, many – but not all – immigrant groups will have expanded access to insurance coverage. A new fact sheet from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) details what immigrant families, and their healthcare providers, need to know to enroll in new coverage.

Where do immigrants currently stand when it comes to health coverage?
More than half of non-U.S. citizen adults are uninsured, compared to 17 percent of adult citizens.

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Medicaid, Healthcare Cuts at Risk in Upcoming Budget Talks

October 24, 2013 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The ink is barely dry on Congress’ deal to end the government shutdown, but another budget crisis is already brewing. While last week’s deal temporarily averted a national financial crisis, it did not resolve the major ideological differences that have plagued fiscal negotiations for years. Now, lawmakers are working to meet yet another budget deadline – and big proposed cuts to healthcare spending are once again on the table.

Continue reading for an analysis of what’s at stake and how these negotiations will affect behavioral healthcare spending.

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Health IT Payments Available to Providers Working in Jails and Prisons

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Healthcare professionals working in correctional institutions are now eligible to receive federal health IT incentive payments for their use of electronic health records, according to guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Under the new policy, providers are eligible to receive the payments when 30 percent of their patient encounters are with patients enrolled in Medicaid – even if patients’ enrollment has been suspended due to their incarceration.

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New Report Details Increases in Medicaid Enrollment and Eligibility

October 23, 2013 | Medicaid | Comments

Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Enrollment and eligibility in Medicaid will increase for most states in 2014, including the 25 states that have not elected to expand their programs, according to a new report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. The report details the impending growth of all state Medicaid programs, as well as new care coordination […]

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Behavioral Health Advocates Make Waves at Hill Day 2013

October 17, 2013 | Hill Day | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On September 16-17, behavioral health providers, consumers, and family members from all over the country converged on Washington, DC to urge their legislators to support a strong behavioral health safety net.

Hill Day 2013 featured a full day of workshops to update attendees on the latest policy development and train them on effective advocacy techniques, followed by a day of meetings with elected officials to urge their support for key behavioral health legislation. Hill Day is a central part of the National Council’s advocacy efforts – and it has tangible results. Here are just a few of the successes this year’s attendees generated:

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Government Shutdown Ends; Affordable Care Act Intact

October 16, 2013 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congress voted late Wednesday on a deal to end the federal government shutdown and avert a default on the U.S. debt. The deal, negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), leaves the Affordable Care Act intact and sets a top-line 2014 budget allocation of $986 trillion. It also extends the debt ceiling to February of next year, giving Congress additional time to reach an agreement on the long-term fiscal issues facing the country.

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New Report on Workforce Recruitment for People with Disabilities

October 16, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments

Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Senator Tom Harkin released a report outlining his recommendations to improve the employment of young Americans with disabilities.

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Patient Protection Act: Bill Would Prevent Dumping Patients Upon Discharge

October 10, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments

Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

Rep Matsui introduced a bill to protect people with behavioral health disorders from being shipped across state lines upon discharge.

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Shutdown Stalemate Continues into Second Week

October 10, 2013 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On the tenth day of the federal government shutdown, signs of a possible end to the impasse appeared. Notably, this week’s activities by key congressional players reflected a shift in focus from repealing the Affordable Care Act to addressing the critical fiscal issues facing the nation, a sign that Congress may be able to reach a deal that leaves the health reform law mostly intact.

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Enrollment in Health Insurance Exchanges Continues; New Resources from Enroll America

October 10, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Enrollment in federal and state health insurance exchanges continued into its second week, with consumers reporting varied experiences on the states’ and federal government’s exchange websites.

Healthcare.gov, the site for the federal and partnership exchanges, noted on its Twitter feed this week that it continues to work around the clock to resolve technical issues that have prevented many people from signing up for an account and using the site to shop for insurance.

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Advocates Get “Social” during Mental Illness Awareness Week

October 8, 2013 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Americans are spreading the message on social media that #MentalHealthMatters, as part of Mental Illness Awareness Week (#MIAW).

Mental Illness Awareness Week takes place October 6-13, 2013. Mental health advocates across the country have joined with others in their communities to sponsor activities for public education about mental illness – and spread the word about their efforts online.

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On Day 3, Path to End Government Shutdown Remains Unclear

October 3, 2013 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

As the federal government shutdown stretches into its third day, it remained unclear how legislators would be able to end their stalemate over the 2014 budget and the Affordable Care Act. Amidst furloughs of over 800,000 federal workers, closures of national parks and monuments, and sharply reduced government services for all but the most essential functions and programs, lawmakers appeared to make little progress in resolving their substantial differences.

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Health Insurance Marketplaces Open for Business as Federal Government Shuts Down

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the state-based health insurance marketplaces began accepting applications for enrollment, even as the federal government shut down amid a political battle over defunding the very law that established them.

The health insurance marketplaces are one of several coverage expansions included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act and are a critical pathway to coverage for uninsured Americans who do not qualify for Medicaid. October 1 is the start of a 6-month open enrollment period during which consumers can sign up for health insurance coverage through the marketplaces.

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