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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.

Obama Addresses ACA Enrollment in State of the Union; Says 9 Million Covered

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

President Obama spoke at length about his signature health law in this week’s State of the Union address, touting its consumer protections and putting in a plug for Americans to enroll in coverage.

More than nine million Americans have enrolled in health coverage through Medicaid or the exchanges since the start of open ACA enrollment on October 1, said Obama. This includes more than 3 million who have signed up on the exchanges and 6.3 million enrolled in Medicaid.

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33 Senators Sign Letter in Support of Charitable Tax Deduction

January 30, 2014 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Nearly three dozen lawmakers have signed a letter calling on Congress to preserve the “full value and scope” of the charitable tax deduction. Charitable donations are an important source of funding for many addiction and mental health treatment organizations, but rumors have surfaced that the charitable tax deduction may be at risk in proposed legislation for a comprehensive overhaul of the US tax code.

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Senator Kelly Ayotte to Speak at Conference/Hill Day ‘14

January 28, 2014 | Hill Day | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The National Council is pleased to announce that Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) will give a keynote address at the 2014 National Council Conference and Hill Day. Senator Ayotte is a leader in advocating for the improvement of public policies that affect the millions of people with mental health and substance use problems.

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Details Emerge about 2014 Substance Use and Mental Health Funding

January 23, 2014 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Late last week, President Obama signed the fiscal year 2014 budget into law. Included in the budget bill were a number of important priorities for substance use and mental healthcare, a rare victory in a congressional session that has seen major cuts to discretionary spending.

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U.S. Makes Progress in Curbing Smoking, but Disparities Persist

January 23, 2014 | Tobacco and Smoking | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Although the U.S. has made strides in reducing smoking rates over the last five decades, tobacco use remains a major health risk, according to a new report by the Surgeon General. Smoking rates have dropped by half in the last 50 years since the 1964 landmark report that linked smoking with cancer. Yet, every year, nearly half a million American adults still die prematurely from diseases associated with tobacco use.

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Bill Introduced to Reform Chronic Care in Medicare

January 22, 2014 | Medicare | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

A bipartisan bill introduced in Congress last week aims to overhaul the way older Americans receive care under Medicare and rein in the program’s rising costs. The Better Care, Lower Cost Act of 2014 (S. 1932/H.R. 3890) would give Medicare providers and insurance plans incentives to use team-based care to treat patients with chronic health conditions.

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House Passes 2014 Budget Deal; Includes Funding Bump for Mental Health

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The House yesterday easily approved a $1 trillion omnibus budget bill, the result of intensive negotiations over the last month to fund government operations for the remainder of 2014 and avert another shutdown. The bill, which is also expected to pass the Senate this week, increases mental health funding over 2013 levels and includes $15 million for Mental Health First Aid training.

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Final Rule Grants States Flexibility in Medicaid Home- and Community-based Services

January 16, 2014 | Medicaid | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a final rule Friday that expands Medicaid payments for home- and community-based services and gives states more flexibility in administering their waiver programs. Currently, 47 states and the District of Columbia are using home- and community-based care under Medicaid waivers.

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Rep. Murphy Calls CMS to Task for Proposal Limiting Mental Health Drug Access

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) has written to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) asking the agency to justify its decision to strip key mental health drugs of their protected status in Medicare. Stating that “the CMS proposal appears not to be grounded in a concern over beneficiary health,” Murphy asked the agency to account for the rationale behind its controversial proposal issued earlier this month.

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Year in Review: Progress for Behavioral Health on the Hill

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Chuck Ingoglia

, National Council for Behavioral Health

The beginning of a new year is always a time for reflection on our achievements over the last twelve months and setting goals for what we hope to accomplish in the coming twelve. 2014 is an especially exciting time to do this because of how far we’ve come with our legislative priorities, thanks to unprecedented support in Congress and the outstanding support from advocates like you.

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Healthcare Financing Strategies for Justice-Involved Individuals

January 8, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

When an individual returns to the community after incarceration, disruptions in the continuity of medical care have been shown to increase rates of reincarceration and lead to poorer and more costly health outcomes. A newly released policy brief offers recommendations and examples of strategies for maximizing the appropriate use of Medicaid coverage for people involved with the criminal justice system.

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CMS Proposes to Strip Mental Health Drugs of Protected Status in Part D

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week announced a proposed rule that would eliminate protected status for antidepressants and antipsychotics in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.

The proposed rule, announced Monday, revises prior agency policy that required Part D plans to include on their formularies “all or substantially all” drugs within six classes: antidepressants, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antineoplastics, and immunosuppressants. This policy, known as the “six protected classes” policy, has been in effect since the inception of Part D and has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress.

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Proposed Rules Clarify NICS Background Check Reporting

January 3, 2014 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Chuck Ingoglia

, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, the Obama Administration announced two new proposed regulations related to the long-established National Instant Criminal Background Check System, clarifying who is prohibited from possessing a firearm for reasons of involuntary commitment to emergency mental health treatment.

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Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act Hits Snag in Senate

January 2, 2014 | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Bipartisan legislation to support collaborative programs between criminal justice and mental health agencies has hit a snag after two Senators placed a hold on it last week, preventing the bill from coming to a vote before the full Senate.

The Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act (H.R. 401/S. 162) was introduced last January by Senators Al Franken (D-MN) and Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Congressmen Richard Nugent (R-FL) and Bobby Scott (D-VA).

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White House Revises Coverage Mandate for People with Canceled Plans

January 2, 2014 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last week, the Obama Administration announced a temporary reprieve for consumers whose health plans have been canceled because they do not meet minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under the new rules, consumers affected by cancellations will be allowed to avoid the law’s individual mandate penalty next year by purchasing catastrophic coverage (in lieu of a more expensive “qualified plan”) and claiming a “hardship exemption.”

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Affordable Care Act Health Coverage Begins for More than 2 Million Americans

January 2, 2014 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

As the Affordable Care Act’s insurance expansions went into effect yesterday, more than 2 million people had signed up for health coverage through the federal and state insurance marketplaces, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Newly released CMS figures show that 1.6 million Americans signed up for coverage in December, with 975,000 of those enrolling through the federal Healthcare.gov site. That brings the total number of enrollees to about 2.1 million.

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Budget Compromise Passes Congress; Includes Short-term Medicare Pay Fix

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Congress this week approved a bill setting top-line budget numbers for 2014 and 2015. The agreement alleviated fears of another government shutdown by paving the way for an omnibus spending package that will set programmatic spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year. It also includes a three-month postponement of an imminent 20 percent cut to Medicare physician pay rates, giving House and Senate negotiators breathing room to finish their work on a comprehensive, permanent fix that could include the Excellence in Mental Health Act.

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Insurance Marketplace Enrollment Rises in November

December 17, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

After a troubled start in October, enrollment in the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplaces rose substantially in November. The latest figures released by the Department of Health and Human Services show that more than 250,000 U.S. residents selected a health plan through the marketplaces in November, compared with just over 106,000 who had selected their plan in October.

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Congressman Tim Murphy Introduces Mental Health Reform Bill

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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Today, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced a bill to reform the nation’s mental health delivery system. The legislation is the culmination of a year-long series of hearings Murphy held as chair of the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations Committee in the wake of the tragic 2012 Newtown shooting.

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Clarifying the Medicare Conditions of Participation for CMHCs

December 12, 2013 | Medicare | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Recently published guidance from the Obama Administration established, for the first time, conditions of participation (CoP) for community mental health centers in Medicare. In the weeks since this guidance was issued, the National Council has received many questions from our members asking whether and to what extent these guidelines apply to them. Keep reading for answers.

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