Congress Returns for Lame Duck Session
Lawmakers returned this week for a lame duck session, which could last until the week after Christmas. However, Congress is likely to adjourn well before that. Although a number of issues could be tackled—including arms control, tax cut extension and defense bills—it is unclear how much will get done. Because spending bills funding government agencies for the current fiscal year have yet to be approved, lawmakers are expected to pass a “continuing resolution” that will fund government operations into early 2011.
Attacks on Health Reform Likely in Aftermath of Election: Although leaders of the new GOP House majority pledge to hold a vote early next year to repeal the health care reform law, it is unlikely to go anywhere. Any vote in the House would be opposed by the Democratic-controlled Senate and vetoed by President Obama. However, lawmakers could try to strip funding for implementation of the law and use spending bills to block regulations to which they object. And they could move to limit enforcement of provisions that require people to obtain insurance. In addition, GOP leaders may try to hold hearings to highlight unpopular aspects of the law. This demonstrates the need for continued advocacy to protect the many benefits of the new law.
Economy, Not Health Law, Concerned Voters: The recent election results have raised questions about whether the passage of health reform played a significant role. But a recent poll conducted just after Election Day by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that the economy was the leading factor influencing how voters made their choice. Political party affiliation and their views of individual candidates ranked second and third followed by health care.
Push Continues for Condolence Letters for Families of Fallen Heroes
Mental Health America is continuing its push to change an unwritten policy of not sending Presidential letters of condolence to families of soldiers who die by suicide. An online petition has been signed by over 14,000 individuals. We thank everyone for supporting this initiative. The Wall Street Journal and several other newspapers wrote recently about the effort. Mental Health America first urged the President to overturn this policy in January and we will continue to push to change it.
National Survivors of Suicide Day is November 20
National Survivors of Suicide Day is a day of healing for those who have lost someone to suicide. It was created by U.S. Senate resolution in 1999 through the efforts of Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who lost his father to suicide. Every year, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention sponsors an event to provide an opportunity for the survivor community to come together for support, healing, information and empowerment.
New Parity Toolkit Available
The Parity Implementation Coalition, which is made up of Mental Health America and other organizations that worked to win passage of the federal Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, has created a toolkit to aid individuals seeking recovery, their families, providers and advocates understand their new rights and benefits under the law. The toolkit is designed to be a resource on how to better communicate with plans, how to prepare and document information should disputes arise with a health plan over coverage or reimbursement, and how to better understand basic appeals rights and procedures. You can view the toolkit here.
Ballot Measure Protects Voting Rights of People with Mental Illness
Mental Health America affiliates in Kansas worked hard to get a ballot measure passed to eliminate constitutional language that allows the legislature to deny the right to vote to individuals with mental illnesses. Mental Health America of the Heartland and the Mental Health Association in South Central Kansas should be especially proud of their efforts to get the measure on the ballot and then to educate the voting public about mental health and the rights of individuals with mental illnesses.
New to the Advocacy Network?
If you are new to the Advocacy Network, make sure you check out our resources on being an effective advocate, find out more about mental health parity and the new health reform law, and learn about the action we are taking to bring about positive changes in policies.