Time to Raise Your Voice—TAKE ACTION!
Alerts on Health Reform, Medicaid Funding Increase
This is a crucial time to raise your voice. In the next weeks, Congress will be deciding whether it moves forward on health reform. In addition, there’s an opportunity to extend vital increases in federal support for state Medicaid programs. But progress on these items won’t happen unless your legislators hear from you. Use the Action Alerts linked below to let Congress know you want them to move on health reform and Medicaid increases.
Health Care Reform: On Thursday, February 25, the White House will host a summit that will bring leaders from both parties together and seek to put health care reform back on track. The summit will be broadcast live on C-SPAN beginning at 10 am EST. Lawmakers will discuss a plan released this week by President Obama that would put families and small businesses in control of their health. The President’s plan adopts the Senate-passed bill while incorporating a number of provisions from the House-passed health care reform bill and other key changes, including a proposal to give the government the ability to block huge increases in insurance rates. You can read the plan here.
This reform plan would cover most uninsured Americans and access to mental health care and substance use treatment would be greatly expanded. In addition, significant steps would be taken to improve coordination between behavioral health and general health care. Additional Medicaid federal financing for all states is also proposed as the President’s plan would eliminate the special provision for Nebraska’s Medicaid program included in the Senate-passed bill. In addition, the Medicare “donut hole” for prescription drug coverage would be closed. The President would also add education and training grants for mental and behavioral health care. In addition, this proposal would support a loan repayment program for pediatric, mental and behavioral health specialists who provide services to children and adolescents in underserved areas or with underserved populations. In addition, new conditions of participation in Medicare would be imposed on community mental health centers to ensure they are providing necessary and high quality care.
Your voice is crucial to moving reform forward. Tell your legislators that they need to continue the fight for reform and complete action on an overhaul of the system. Use this form to contact them. TAKE ACTION!
Medicaid: The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) included a temporary increase in federal Medicaid matching funds to help alleviate state budget pressures and prevent cuts in coverage during the current economic downturn. This increase in Medicaid funding ends in December of this year (2010), but states continue to face extraordinary difficulty balancing their budgets for the next fiscal year. As a result many are considering cutting Medicaid benefits and eligibility, as well as provider rates as they develop their 2011 budgets. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has introduced a bill, S. 3000, to extend the increased Medicaid funding provided in the ARRA.
The House passed an extension of the increase in federal Medicaid funding in December as part of a jobs creation bill called the “Jobs for Main Street Act” (H.R. 2847). The bill would provide a six-month extension of the increase in the federal Medicaid funds—amounting to $23.5 billion in additional federal funding for states. The Senate has also been working on a jobs creation bill, but the latest version proposed by the Democratic leadership did not include an extension of the federal Medicaid funding. However, the Senate plans to take up additional legislation in the weeks ahead to spur job and economic growth and this legislation should include an extension of the Medicaid funding increase.
State governments and governors are right now in the midst of developing their budgets for next year, and they need assurance that additional federal Medicaid funds will be forthcoming or else we will likely see dramatic cuts in Medicaid coverage. It will also be important to urge that these additional Medicaid funds come with strong maintenance of effort requirements to ensure these funds are only used to preserve Medicaid coverage. As Senate Democrats take steps to spur jobs and provide economic assistance, this is a key opportunity to urge them to include additional Medicaid funds for the states. Go to our Alert to contact your Senators. TAKE ACTION!
Mental Health Parity: Tell Us Your Story
The new federal mental health parity law became fully effective on January 1 of this year. It states that coverage in most insurance plans (generally those with 51 or more workers) for mental health and substance use must be on a par with your medical and surgical coverage. That means coverage for mental health and substance should require the same deductibles and co-payments. You can read more about the law and how it benefits you here.
Help us make sure the law is working for you by telling us your story. Is your health plan following the law? Did it drop mental health and substance use coverage? Whether you can report a success or problem—we want to hear from you. Go to our website and the form linked here to tell us your story. Your information will be kept confidential unless you want to share it with others.
Good News in Budget
The Obama Administration is proposing a Fiscal Year 2011 Budget that contains increases for most of the nation's public health agencies. The budget, which was released early in February, prioritizes public health programs, including increases in funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), despite a difficult fiscal landscape.
Mental Health America looks forward to working with Congress and the Administration to build upon the proposed budget, which includes a $110 million increase (3.1 percent) for SAMHSA, a $1 billion increase (3 percent) for the National Institutes of Health and a $5.2 billion increase (8 percent increase) for mental health care services at the Department of Veterans Affairs.