BY THE NUMBERS
The National Center for Health Statistics released annual overdose data this week. In the one-year period between April 2020 and April 2021, 100,000 Americans likely lost their lives due to drug overdose. This is the first time overdose deaths in one year exceeded 100,000, despite increasing steadily and soaring during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently released an Overdose Prevention Strategy, highlighting primary prevention, harm reduction, evidence-based treatment, and recovery support.
Vaccine Mandate Webinar
National Council has released a webinar for members detailing the vaccine mandates released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) earlier this month. The webinar will cover the basic provisions of each rule and how the mandate may impact member organizations. National Council encourages members to seek advice from legal counsel on the rules’ applicability to their specific organization. Members can watch the webinar here. For CMS rule FAQ, click here. For a summary of the OSHA rule, click here. Note: OSHA has suspended enforcement of the rule as a result of a court ruling.
Medicaid Provisions in Build Back Better Act
House Democrats recently released the finalized text of the Build Back Better Act (BBBA), which includes several major health policy proposals. Some Medicaid provisions in BBBA include: (1) increase access to mental health and substance use services; (2) expand access to maternal health; (3) address the Medicaid fiscal cliff for U.S. territories; (4) phase-out certain policies to assist state Medicaid programs in responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency; (5) permanently expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); (6) increase access to home- and community-based services (HCBS); and (7) bolster vaccine coverage. Read this report for a comprehensive breakdown of these proposed policies. Note: these policies could be subject to further changes in the Senate.
Cures 2.0 Act Introduced
Representatives DeGette (D-CO) and Upton (R-MI) introduced Cures 2.0 this week. The legislation builds on the 21st Century Cures Act of 2016 by continuing the objective of expediting disease research and therapeutic approval pathways, bolstering public health and pandemic preparedness initiatives, enhancing access to health care, and addressing health insurance coverage, among other items. Notably, the legislation includes the Telehealth Modernization Act to permanently remove geographic and originating site restrictions in Medicare, among other public health provisions. For a section-by-section description, see here.
National Council and HMA Release Workforce Issue Brief
Nationally, there is more demand for mental health and substance use services than there is workforce capacity to deliver services. Payment, clinical, and regulatory models underlie what has become a national health care workforce crisis. Health Management Associates (HMA) and the National Council for Mental Wellbeing are preparing a series of three issue briefs that offer states immediate policy actions to expand current capacity and build a more stable future workforce. The first of these three issue briefs was recently published: Behavioral Health Workforce is a National Crisis: Immediate Policy Actions for States.
MedPAC Holds November Meeting
On November 8-9, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) convened for its monthly public meeting (summary). Commissioners agreed with staff recommendations that more data on audio-only telehealth visits and utilization is needed. Commissioners also discussed areas of equity for telehealth, including: (1) ensuring equity between audio-only and audio-visual telehealth payments and (2) examining the in-person visit requirements for use of telehealth for treatment of behavioral health issues.
Advocate for CCBHCs. Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) provide critical care for people with mental health and substance use challenges. Every state should have the opportunity to participate in the CCBHC demonstration program. The Ask: Urge your legislators to cosponsor and support the passage of the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Act (S. 2069/ H.R. 4323).
HAPPENING ON THE HILL
FDA Commissioner Nominated. President Biden nominated Robert Califf last week to lead the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Califf is a cardiologist who previously served as FDA commissioner under President Obama and served as deputy commissioner of the FDA’s Office of Medical Products and Tobacco.
Manager, Federal Policy
The National Council