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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.

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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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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