On Your Behalf
APA advocacy helped to ensure that key psychology-related provisions remained in the health-care reform bill passed by the U.S House of Representatives on Nov. 7. The House bill includes mental health and substance use benefits in the health insurance exchange at parity with medical and surgical benefits; integrated care; support for the Graduate Psychology Education Program; prevention and wellness initiatives; strategies to eliminate health disparities; and federal infrastructure for comparative effectiveness research. The bill also includes a Medicare reimbursement provision that would increase access to mental health services by extending for two years the 5 percent psychotherapy payment restoration. Congressional leaders hope to have a final bill passed and to President Obama by the end of the month. For more up-to-date information on APA's health-care reform efforts, go to www.apa.org/health-reform.
Thanks to advocacy by APA members, as well as the American Medical Association and others, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act on Nov. 19. The bill, H.R. 3961, replaces the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate formula, thereby blocking a 21.2 percent cut in Medicare Part B scheduled for Jan. 1. The bill was sent to the Senate, where it is more controversial.
Due in part to APA outreach, the U.S. Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2010 Criminal, Justice, State Appropriations bill (H.R. 2847) on Nov. 5. The legislation provides $10 million for the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (MIOTCRA), which authorizes federal grant money to help states and local communities fund collaborative efforts among the criminal justice, mental health and juvenile justice systems aimed at reducing the criminalization of people with mental disorders. These efforts include mental health courts, jail diversion, alternative prosecution and sentencing programs, treatment for incarcerated people with mental disorders and the cross-training of criminal justice, juvenile justice and mental health personnel. The bill also provides $64 million for prisoner re-entry into society, including $50 million for Second Chance Act programs, which seek to reduce recidivism among the formerly incarcerated. The House version of the bill passed in June and would provide $12 million for MIOTCRA and $114 million for prisoner re-entry, including $100 million for Second Chance Act programs. The House and Senate will now convene a conference committee to work out the differences between the two versions of the bill.
The U.S. House passed a bill Oct. 21 that would exempt psychology practices with 20 employees or fewer from a rule that would place an inappropriate burden on psychology practitioners. The bill, H.R. 3763, was drafted in response to the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flags Rule, which requires certain entities to develop and implement written identity theft prevention and detection programs to protect consumers from identity theft. Psychologists and other health-care providers objected to the FTC's interpretation that health-care practitioners are “creditors” when they accept insurance and bill patients for services. The legislation now moves to the Senate. The APA Practice Organization Government Relations staff is working with congressional staff to ensure that psychology is in the list of exempted professions.
APA is continuing its work with the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. APA is working to ensure the reauthorizations of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act will continue to promote mental health. Specifically, APA seeks an increase in mental health promotion and support, and the use of violence-prevention methods rather than zero-tolerance policies in schools. APA has also been informing federal officials about the work of APA and its members in the areas of bullying, threat assessment and adolescent development and delinquency.
APA advocacy contributed to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's awarding of $6.3 million in grant funds to institutions of higher education for suicide prevention. Institutions can use the annual grants for a range of activities that address suicide-related mental and behavioral health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Twenty-two schools received up to $100,000 from the renewable grants. For a complete list of grantees, visit www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/advisories/090924college5532.aspx.