Removing Barriers to Access
Latest Advocacy News
For additional news on federal legislative and regulatory activities, see below.
Federal Legislative Activities
Comprehensive Behavioral Health Reform
House passes mental health bill (July 8, 2016)
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee today approved the Mental Health Reform Act (S. 2680). (March 16, 2016)
Combating Substance Abuse and the Opioid Epidemic
President signs legislation to address opioid epidemic (July 25, 2016)
Special Bulletin: Progress on Addressing the Opioid Epidemic (July 14, 2016)
The Senate yesterday passed the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), S. 524, which the House of Representatives approved last week. The multi-faceted, bipartisan legislation is designed to help stem the epidemic of opioid abuse through education, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation. The legislation incorporates several AHA-endorsed measures. Read more.
House approves legislation to address opioid epidemic (July 8, 2016)
Senate approves bipartisan bill to address opioid epidemic. The Senate today voted 94-1 to approve the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (S. 524), bipartisan legislation to address the nation’s opioid epidemic. (March 10, 2016)
AHA-supported legislation, the Protecting Our Infants Act (S.799/H.R. 1462), sent to the President instructs HHS to develop a strategy and recommendations to decrease the number of infants with opioid dependency, and work with states to improve the public health response.
H.R. 3537, the Synthetic Drug Control Act, was approved by the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee approved the Synthetic Drug Control Act (H.R. 3537). The AHA-supported legislation would give the Drug Enforcement Administration authority to stop the distribution, sale and use of additional synthetic drugs by classifying them as Schedule I controlled substances.
Reauthorizing Federal Behavioral Health Grant Programs
An AHA-supported mental health bill, S. 1893, The Mental Health Awareness & Improvement Act reauthorizes several key behavioral health programs, including those addressing suicide prevention, mental health awareness, and opioid use disorder treatment. The bill’s authors are Senate HELP Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA). The HELP Committee approved S. 1893 unanimously on October 1, 2015 and is awaiting action by the full Senate.
Expanding Access to Emergency Psychiatric Treatment
AHA-supported legislation, S. 599, the Improving Access to Emergency Psychiatric Care Act, authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services to extend and expand CMS’s Medicaid Emergency Psychiatric Demonstration Project beyond 2015. The legislation has passed the House and Senate, and on December 1, it was presented to President Obama for his signature.
Veterans Mental Health Care Access
AHA-supported legislation, H.R. 1604, authored by Reps. Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ) and Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) would amend the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act to allow veterans to receive covered mental health care from non-VA providers regardless of when they entered the VA system, their home’s distance from a VA facility, or whether they had previously attempted to access care through the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill has been referred to the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, where it awaits consideration.
Medicaid Expansion and Mental Health Parity in Medicaid, CHIP
CMS finalizes Medicaid, CHIP mental health parity rule (AHA News Now, March 29, 2016)
HHS: 1.9 million adults would gain mental health coverage with Medicaid expansion (AHA News Now, March 28, 2016)
AHA letter urges CMS to “exert greater oversight” to ensure that both state governments and Medicaid managed care organizations operating in the states comply with mental health parity standards. (July 23, 2015)
AHA letter comments on CMS's proposed rule on managed care for Medicaid and CHIP and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) requirements. (June 3, 2015)
AHA Regulatory Advisory - CMS Issues Final Medicaid Equal Access Rule (November 19, 2015)
AHA Regulatory Advisory: Final Rule on Mental Health Parity (Dec. 11, 2013)
AHA Regulatory Advisory: Medicare Physician Fee Schedule: Final Rule for CY 2016
The final rule impacts payment for social workers and psychologists: The list of NPPs includes clinical social workers and clinical psychologists and the definition of primary care includes mental health care services.
New Physician Payment Models: AHA submitted several overarching recommendations for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models (APM) in response to CMS’s request for comments to inform implementation.
AHA comment letter asks CDC to finalize guidance on opioid prescribing for chronic pain.
Pushing for IMD Flexibility in Medicaid, CHIP Managed Care Plans
AHA supports a proposed rule that permits states flexibility to use managed care to increase mental health services for enrollees aged 21 to 64 in short-term inpatient or sub-acute institutions for mental disease (IMDs).
Urging CMS to Develop Payment for Collaborative Care
AHA applauded the agency’s interest in developing separate payment for collaborative care, particularly with respect to beneficiaries with common behavioral conditions, and urged CMS to consider and evaluate such a payment’s potential to help address the mental health professional shortage as part of their final Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule.
Depression Screening and Treatment
SAMHSA: One in nine adolescents reports major depressive episode, AHA News Now (July 11, 2016)
Task Force recommends screening adolescents for depression, AHA News Now (February 10, 2016)
Screening for Depression in Adults: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation, JAMA (January 2016)
More mental health care covered by insurance, but disparities in treatment persist, AHA News Now (June 8, 2016)
Triple Aim Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Care Infographic AHA/HPOE (September 23, 2016)
Letter: AHA urges reassessment of HCAHPS survey pain questions (April 28, 2016)
Triple Aim Strategies to Improve Behavioral Health Care, American Hospital Association/HPOE (February 2016)
Fixing Behavioral Health Care in America: A National Call for Measurement-Based Care in the Delivery of Behavioral Health Services, The Kennedy Forum (December 2015)
Mental Health Parity
Telepsychiatry and Using Technology
Parity Resource Guide for Addiction & Mental Health Consumers, Providers and Advocates, The Kennedy Forum (Winter 2015)
Telemedicine: The Promise and Challenges, Alliance for Health Reform (June 2015)