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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 Administration Announces $100 Million in Mental Health Funding

December 11, 2013 | Federal Budget | Comments
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Chuck Ingoglia

, National Council for Behavioral Health

This week, the Obama Administration announced the imminent availability of $100 million in mental health funding to be used to expand service delivery in community health settings and rural areas.

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Stage 3 Meaningful Use Deadline Delayed by One Year

December 10, 2013 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced a one-year delay in the implementation of Stage 3 Meaningful Use criteria. Established under the HITECH Act of 2009, each stage of Meaningful Use outlines the metrics organizations must meet to receive incentive payments for their use of electronic health records. Participating organizations will have an additional year to comply with Stage 2 criteria while CMS crafts its proposed rules for Stage 3.

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Happy Birthday, Medicare Part D! 10-Year Anniversary of Landmark Law is Dec. 8

December 5, 2013 | Medicare | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

On December 8, 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act (MMA), which established the Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage Program known as Medicare Part D. In creating the first-ever outpatient prescription drug benefit under Medicare, the law closed a significant gap in health insurance coverage for Medicare beneficiaries.

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Online Healthcare Enrollment for Small Business Delayed by One Year

December 5, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Last Wednesday, the White House delayed the launch of its online small business marketplace by one year. Companies with fewer than 50 employees were slated to begin buying coverage through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), an online federal exchange, this month. Agency officials said the latest delay reflected the Administration’s priority on getting the HealthCare.gov website to work for individual customers.

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Medicaid Enrollment Surged During October, Says CMS

December 5, 2013 | Medicaid | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

More than 1.4 million people were determined eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program in October, according to a government report issued this week. The numbers reflect an average 15.5% increase in Medicaid application volume in states participating in the Medicaid expansion and a 4.1% increase in states that are not expanding Medicaid.

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Second Chance Reauthorization Act Introduced

November 21, 2013 | Justice | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Legislation has been introduced in Congress to reauthorize and expand the Second Chance Act, a federal grant program for activities that support people returning to their communities after incarceration. First signed into law on April 9, 2008, the Second Chance Act was designed to help prisoners effectively reintegrate into the community. The Act established grants for government agencies and nonprofits to provide services that reduce recidivism by improving outcomes for people returning from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities.

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Obama Proposes Fix Allowing Consumers to Temporarily Keep Canceled Plans

November 21, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Responding to backlash over insurance plan cancellation notices millions of Americans have received in recent weeks, President Obama announced a fix to ensure Americans who like their insurance can keep it through 2014.

Obama’s proposal would allow insurers who currently offer plans in the individual market—many of whom have sent cancellation letters in recent weeks—to continuing offering their plans into 2014, even if those plans do not meet the Affordable Care Act’s minimum coverage standards.

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Consumers Look to “Catastrophic Plans” for Alternative to Canceled Policies

November 20, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Adam Swanson

Senior Policy Associate, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Obama Administration continues to weather a storm of public criticism for the insurance plan cancelation notices that millions of Americans have received in recent weeks. Insurance companies have informed these policy holders that their plans are being canceled because the plans do not meet the minimum requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Although […]

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Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act Introduced

November 14, 2013 | Health Information Technology | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

Efforts to extend health IT payments to mental health and addiction providers advanced this week with the introduction of the Behavioral Health IT Coordination Act (S. 1685), which would add psychiatric hospitals, mental health treatment facilities, and substance abuse treatment facilities to the types of entities that may receive incentive payments for meaningful use of electronic health records.

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Low Enrollment Numbers Reflect Insurance Marketplaces’ Rocky Start

November 14, 2013 | Health Insurance Exchanges | Comments
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Rebecca Farley

Director, Policy & Advocacy, National Council for Behavioral Health

The Obama Administration this week released enrollment numbers for the first month that the health insurance marketplaces have been open for business. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report, 106,000 individuals had selected a plan through the marketplaces as of November 2. These numbers reflect people who applied and chose a plan, but some may not have paid for their coverage yet.

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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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