This Week in Congress Blog
The recent breakdown of House GOP unity has created a real opportunity for major progress on bi-partisan Medicare legislation. The deadline for completion of the Medicare physician payment reform bill is March 31 so under conditions of strict secrecy, high-level negotiations are now taking place among the bi-partisan House leadership. There are many reports that a permanent replacement for the Medicare’s physician payment formula is within reach and such a bill is an excellent vehicle for clinical mental health counselor/MFT provider status legislation supported by AMHCA. However, any legislative progress remains highly uncertain at this time and resistance is expected from those on the far right. Timing for Medicare action is highly uncertain, but House leadership would like to release a compromise bill later this week. Observers expect debate on a compromise bill will become very controversial and a temporary extension of current Medicare payment rates may be necessary at the end of next week.
Fortunately, further delay will give AMCHA additional time to press for CMHC/MFT Medicare provider status as the debates as they move forward. Among other issues also being considered for inclusion in the Medicare bill is yet another delay of the switch to mandatory use of ICD-10 codes now set in law to begin on Oct. 1, 2015. The switch to the ICD-10 applies to all health care providers including those billing Medicare, Medicaid and private health insurance plans. CMS, the agency in charge of national implementation, is conducting a robust testing program across the county with providers and suppliers and reports no major problems have emerged.
Meanwhile, the Senate is beginning budget negotiators and Republican leaders are quietly discussing a plan to dramatically cut Medicaid funding to all states by “block granting” the program. This funding approach to Medicaid is a well-worn GOP strategy that has failed several times in the past, but it remains a favorite of conservatives to drive down federal spending. In essence, the proposal would greatly reduce both federal Medicaid standards and funding levels to the states. AMHCA and other mental health advocates have long feared that block grants would cut a disproportionate share of mental health funding because of state reliance on Medicaid funds for services. Senate Republicans are reported to plan Medicaid spending cuts of $732 billion over ten years. March 17, 2015 Take Action!
Medicare Legislation AMHCA members should contact their House Representatives now to support our new Medicare provider status bill (HR.3662) Learn more and download House sample email text. Learn more and download Senate sample email text. View the list of Medicare legislation cosponsors.
Veterans Legislation AMHCA members are urged to email their House Representatives and urge them to cosponsor H.3499. Learn more and download Veterans sample email text. The Senate version is already well along toward Senate passage.
How to Contact Congress
To contact your Senators, visit www.senate.gov
To contact your Representatives, visit www.house.gov
Download a list of committee members concerned with Medicare: Senate Finance; House Ways and Means; House Energy and Commerce.
AMHCA's Key Committees of Congress Senate Appropriations (SAMHSA, HRSA, DoD funding) Armed Services (DoD workforce, mental health services for active duty) Finance (Medicare, Medicaid, ACA) Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (SAMHSA authority, ACA) Veterans' Affairs (Dept of Veterans Affairs) House Appropriations (SAMHSA, HRSA, DoD funding) Armed Services (DoD workforce, mental health services for active duty) Energy and Commerce (Medicare Outpatient, Medicaid, SAMHSA authority, ACA) Veterans’ Affairs (Dept. of Veterans Affairs) Ways and Means (Medicare All Parts)
To send an email to a Member of Congress, visit their personal website.