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United Healthcare Sued by Labor Department The US Department of Labor (DOL) has sued UnitedHealthcare and United Behavioral Health alleging the companies systematically limit coverage of mental healthcare more than medical and surgical care in violation of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act and the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The complaint filed by the DOL specifically points to discrepancies in reimbursement rates for out-of-network, non-physician mental health providers compared to rates for medical and surgical providers. In addition, the DOL complaint refers to a concurrent review program for outlier or unusual services that the companies apply broadly to all outpatient mental health benefits but only to a “very select set” of medical/surgical benefits. The complaint was filed as Walsh v. United Behavioral Health in the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021. The New York attorney general also sued UnitedHealth Group, United Behavioral Health, UnitedHealthcare and Oxford Health Plans, claiming the companies violated both federal and state mental health parity laws. The companies will pay $2.5 million to resolve the Labor Department claims, $1.1 million to resolve the state’s claims, and $10 million to resolve private class action claims, according to two separate settlement agreements with the regulators and private parties.   Senate Finance Committee Launches Bipartisan Effort to Address Barriers to Mental Health Care Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) announced plans to develop bipartisan legislation addressing barriers to mental healthcare in a letter to Committee members issued Aug. 5, 2021. The letter requested proposals regarding the following issues in particular: Addressing the behavioral health workforce shortage, Supporting care integration, access, and coordination efforts, Improving oversight, data reporting, and enforcement of mental health parity laws, and Expanding access to telehealth services for behavioral health care. The letter also cited Committee interest in enhancing mental health crisis care and addressing gaps in care for high need groups including individuals with serious mental illness, those experiencing homelessness, and individuals involved in the child welfare system. The letter also referred to the need to improve pediatric mental healthcare and strengthen prevention and treatment options for substance use disorders. Proposals from Committee members are due before Aug. 31, 2021. The letter also states the Committee will issue a separate request for input from public- and private-sector stakeholders. NABH is working on several fronts to ensure our legislative priorities are addressed as part of this initiative.   California Mandates Covid-19 Vaccine for Healthcare Workers The California Department of Public Health issued an order on Aug. 5, 2021 requiring workers in healthcare facilities to be vaccinated for Covid-19 by Sept. 30, 2021. The order explicitly applies to hospitals, acute psychiatric hospitals, chemical dependency recovery hospitals, clinics and doctor offices (including behavioral health), residential substance use treatment and mental health treatment facilities, as well as other healthcare facilities. Workers subject to this requirement include those that are paid and unpaid including nurses and nursing assistants, technicians, therapists, students and trainees, contract staff not employed by the facility, and persons not involved in patient care but who could be […]
Life expectancy in the U.S. fell by 1.5 years in 2020, biggest decline since at least World War II Provisional data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that life expectancy dropped to 77.3 years in 2020, the largest single-year decline recorded since 1943. Nearly 75% of the decline in the 2020 life expectancy was due to Covid deaths, the report estimates. A further 11% of the decline was due to accidental and unintentional injuries — more than a third of which were due to a spike in drug overdose deaths. Public Health Emergency Extended On July 19, HHS Secretary Becerra renewed the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic public health emergency for 90 days, effective July 20, 2021. $26B Opioid Settlement Announced Attorneys general from seven states across the country announced that they had entered into a $26 billion proposed settlement agreement with three of the largest pharmaceutical distributors — McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen — and drugmaker Johnson & Johnson that could resolve thousands of lawsuits focused on their role in the ongoing opioid epidemic. The proposed global agreement — if approved by a substantial number of states and local governments across the country — would resolve the claims of nearly 4,000 entities that have filed lawsuits in federal and state courts against the four companies. States have 30 days to sign onto the proposed agreement. Local governments in the participating states will have up to 150 days to join. The total funding distributed will be determined by the overall degree of participation by both litigating and non-litigating state and local governments with the substantial majority of the money to be spent on opioid treatment and prevention. Each state’s share of the funding will be determined by an agreement among the states using a formula that takes into account the impact of the crisis on the state — specifically, the number of overdose deaths, the number of residents with substance use disorder, and the number of opioids prescribed — and the population of the state. CMS releases proposed Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System Rule In the proposed 2022 Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System rule released Monday, CMS proposed significant increases to penalties that could be assessed on hospitals for non-compliance with price transparency requirements. If the rule is finalized as proposed, the maximum annual penalty would increase from $109,500 to $2 million per hospital. The agency also proposed halting the Trump Administration’s elimination of the inpatient-only list and included an RFI focusing on the health and safety standards, quality measures, reporting requirements, and payment policies for Rural Emergency Hospitals (REHs), a new Medicare provider type. Regarding Medicare partial hospitalization program (PHP) calendar year (CY) 2022 payment rates, in this rulemaking, CMS is proposing to maintain the existing unified rate structure, with a single PHP Ambulatory Payment Classification for each provider type for days with three or more services per day. CMS is also proposing to use the community mental health center (CMHC) and hospital-based PHP geometric mean per diem costs, consistent with existing methodology, but with a cost floor that would maintain the per diem costs […]
NABH, MHA, and NAMI Send Letter to Congress About Citizens Commission on Human Rights NABH, Mental Health America (MHA), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) this week sent a letter to Congress about the work of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), an activist organization representing Scientology that questions the legitimacy of psychiatric categories, diagnostic practices, and common forms of behavioral healthcare treatment. News outlets have reported for years that the Scientology movement’s goal is to replace mental health treatment with rituals that adhere to Scientology’s beliefs and practices. The letter from NABH, MHA, and NAMI is meant to inform federal lawmakers and their staff members that CCHR represents Scientology, and also to make them aware that CCHR’s goal is to discredit the mental health segment and undermine public faith in this field of medicine. The letter is also intended to debunk CCHR’s claims and highlight the positive effects of behavioral healthcare treatment. “When behavioral healthcare conditions are compared with other chronic conditions, behavioral healthcare outcomes are similar, and, in some cases, slightly better,” the letter said. “Consider these statistics: 30 percent to 50 percent of adults with type 1 diabetes (a chronic condition) will experience recurrence of symptoms each year, and approximately 50 percent to 70 percent of adults with hypertension or asthma will have a recurrence requiring additional medical care each year. By comparison, “40 percent to 60 percent of patients treated for alcohol or other drug dependence return to active substance use within a year following treatment discharge.” NABH, MHA, and NAMI concluded the letter by offering to serve as trusted resources for policymakers, journalists, patient advocates, and the general public to ensure that America’s most vulnerable patients can access the high-quality, evidence-based behavioral healthcare they need. MACPAC Examindes Access to Medication-Assisted Treatment Under Medicaid Medicaid utilization management policies for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) vary widely nationwide and the extent to which these policies build barriers to addiction treatment is unclear, the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) concluded in its report to Congress this week. The Report to Congress: Utilization Management of Medication-Assisted Treatment in Medicaidis based on analysis of available data on how MAT utilization management is used nationally. It is also based on interviews with industry experts, clinicians, and state officials to study how eight states—Arkansas, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia—apply preferred status, prior authorization, step therapy, prescription limits, quantity or dose limits, and lifetime limits to their Medicaid fee-for-service and managed care programs. “Our review found a trend among states to eliminate prior authorization,” MACPAC Chair Melanie Bella said in an announcement about the report. “This is encouraging, since it removes one potential barrier to MAT access,” she added. According to the report, the number of states requiring prior authorization for MAT medications declined to 30 in 2018 from 48 in 2011-2013. SAMHSA Releases First-Episode Psychosis and Co-Occurring SUD The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released First-Episode Psychosis and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders, a new guide to help healthcare providers, systems, and communities address first-episode psychosis and co-occurring substance use disorders […]
SAMHSA Releases Recovery Home Best Practices and Guidance The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) this week releasedbest practices and suggested guidelines for recovery housing. Last year’s Substance Use-Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment (SUPPORT) for Patients and Communities Act requires the HHS secretary to identify or facilitate developing best practices for recovery housing. SAMHSA’s report this week identifies 10 guiding principles to help states and federal policymakers both define and understand what comprises safe, effective, and legal recovery housing. In its guidance, SAMHSA noted the document is intended to provide a framework that builds on and extends the policy and practice work that has guided the development of recovery housing until now. The guidelines’ 10 areas include having a clear operational definition, recognizing that a substance use disorder (SUD) is a chronic condition that requires a range of recovery supports, promoting and using evidence-based practices, and ensuring quality, integrity, and patient safety. MACPAC Releases Draft Report on Oversight of IMDs The Medicaid and CHIP Payment Access Commission (MACPAC) recently released its draftreport on the oversight of Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMDs) a few months ahead of the commission’s January 2020 deadline for its final report to Congress. Divided into five chapters— 1) history and federal regulation, 2) services provided, 3) regulation and oversight of IMDs and outpatient behavioral health facilities, 4) Medicaid standards for behavioral health facilities, and protections for patients in IMDs, and 5) outpatient behavioral health facilities—the 24-page report includes key findings but does not offer recommendations. NABH sent MACPAC a letter about the regulatory environment at IMDs in late May as part of the commission’s process to develop the report. Kaiser Permanente Pledges $2.75 Million in Research Funding to Prevent Childhood Trauma Not-for-profit health plan Kaiser Permanente this week announced it will invest $2.75 million in new research to study childhood trauma and its effect on total health. In an announcement, Kaiser noted the study’s purpose is prevent and mitigate the health effects of adverse childhood experiences, or ACEs. ACEs are traumatic childhood events that occur before the age of 18 across multiple categories, including abuse, neglect, household dysfunction, systemic racism, and living in a high-crime neighborhood. “Our landmark research on ACEs brought new understanding to the long-term impacts of childhood trauma, and we are now expanding our work with the bold ambition to prevent and minimize ACEs— and create healthier and more resilient generations in the future,” Kaiser Permanente Chairman and CEO Bernard Tyson said in the announcement. One main goal for the new research effort is to provide insights for both clinical and community-based interventions to help address ACEs. Health Affairs Examines the Effects of Violence on Health In its latest issue, the journal Health Affairs this week examined the many ways violence affects health and concluded it is the “daily burden of violence in its many forms” that takes a greater toll on people. Introducing the Violence & Health issue, editor Alan Weil noted there were 2.3 million violence-related emergency department visits in 2017, of which 5 percent were due to firearms. He added that healthcare is the sector […]
NABH President and CEO Mark Covall to Retire; Shawn Coughlin Named as Successor NABH President and CEO Mark Covall announced this week his plans to retire on Dec. 31, 2019 after more than 35 years with the association and 24 years as its president and CEO. The NABH Board of Trustees subsequently named Shawn Coughlin, the association’s executive vice president for government relations and public policy, as NABH’s next president and CEO, effective Jan. 1, 2020. “It has been a privilege to work closely for decades with people who manage and provide life-saving behavioral healthcare services to some of the most vulnerable citizens in our country,” Covall said in a news release this week about the transition. “For years, I’ve also enjoyed working with skilled and dedicated teams here in Washington who have helped expand our services and change U.S. public policy.” After he retires, Covall will serve as executive vice chairman of the NABH Board of Trustees for a two-year term. “I am honored to serve as NABH’s president and CEO after Mark’s long and impressive tenure,” Coughlin said in the news release. “Mark has been a mentor to me for nearly 20 years. His knowledge of—and passion for—improving mental health and addiction treatment services in the United States is unmatched.” NABH Submits Recommendations to CMS on Bundled Rates for OTPs NABH outlined a series of recommendations to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in its Sept. 27 comment letter about the agency’s proposed physician fee schedule rule for 2020 that implements the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act. In the letter, NABH President and CEO Mark Covall highlighted that the value of a payment bundle is to simplify payment mechanisms in a way that treatment providers receive adequate compensation for treatment and patients receive the right care, in the right setting, at the right time. “Bundles that are highly prescriptive tend to disempower providers by directing medical decision-making,” Covall wrote. “At the same time, highly prescriptive bundles disempower patients by forcing them to engage in unnecessary and potentially burdensome care.” Covall also noted that because CMS’ proposed service model exceeds workforce capacity, “…the CMS proposal would put all OTPs at risk of not complying with the terms of the bundle and threaten the existing infrastructure and constrict treatment capacity at a time when more treatment is needed.” NABH Submits Comments to CMS on PHP Rates and Price Transparency NABH has recommended that CMS establish a task force to review and discuss improving the availability of partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) for Medicare beneficiaries. This suggestion was part of NABH’s Sept. 27 public comment letter to CMS on the agency’s proposed Outpatient Prospective Payment and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment Systems (OPPS) and Quality Reporting Programs for 2020. Currently, 47.9 percent of NABH members offer PHP services, and more than 32.5 percent offer PHP addiction services. “We recommend that CMS include NABH, the Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare, the National Council for Behavioral Health, a sampling of PHP providers from the membership of each organization, Mental Health America, and […]
NIH Has Awarded $945 Million to Address Nation’s Opioid Crisis in 2019 The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced this week it has awarded $945 million in fiscal year 2019 to 41 states nationwide as part of its Helping to End Addiction Long-term Initiative, or NIH HEAL. NIH said its agency-wide research effort is meant to improve treatments for chronic pain; curb the rates of opioid use disorder (OUD) and overdose; and achieve long-term recovery from opioid addiction. The effort leverages the skills and expertise from nearly every NIH institute in the areas of translation of research to practice for opioid addiction, new strategies to prevent and treat opioid addiction, enhanced outcomes for infants and children exposed to opioids, novel medication options for OUD and overdose, clinical research in pain management; and pre-clinical and translational research in pain management. “It’s clear that a multi-pronged scientific approach is needed to reduce the risks of opioids, accelerate development of effective non-opioid therapies for pain, and provide more flexible and effective options for treating addiction to opioids,” NIH Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., said in an announcement. Collins launched the HEAL initiative in 2018. VA Releases National Suicide Prevention Report The number of U.S. Veteran suicide deaths per year rose to 6,139 in 2017 from 5,787 in 2005, increasing alongside the rise in suicide deaths in the United States broadly, according to the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department’s (VA) 2019 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Report. Released Sept. 20, the report includes findings from the VA’s most recent analysis of Veteran suicide data from 2005 to 2017. The analysis showed that the number of Veteran suicide deaths has exceeded 6,000 every year between 2008 and 2017. The report also noted 69 percent of all Veteran suicide deaths resulted in a firearm injury, and that males between the ages of 18 and 34 experienced the highest rates of suicide. Meanwhile, the VA reported that the rate of suicide was 2.2 times higher among female Veterans than non-Veteran adult women and 1.3 times higher among male Veterans than non-Veteran adult men. “VA is working to prevent suicide among all Veterans, whether they are enrolled in VA healthcare or not,” VA Secy. Robert Wilkie said in an announcement about the report. “That’s why the department has adopted a comprehensive public health approach to suicide prevention, using bundled strategies that cut across various sectors — faith communities, employers, schools and health care organizations, for example — to reach Veterans where they live and thrive.” Study Shows Veterans with Mental Illness at Higher Risk for Cardiovascular Disease A new study sponsored by the VA showed multiple mental illnesses were associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes, which is consistent with the hypothesis that chronic stress leads to greater CVD. Published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, the study found that more severe mental illnesses—such as primary psychotic disorders—have the largest effect sizes even after controlling for other psychiatric diagnoses, conventional CVD risk factors, and psychotropic medication use. Among men, the study noted, depression, anxiety, psychosis, and bipolar disorder were all associated with […]
CMS Announces 1.5-percent Increase for Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities for 2020 in Final Rule The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a Medicare payment increase of 1.5 percent next year for inpatient psychiatric facilities in the final Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities Prospective Payment Systems (IPF PPS) rule the agency released earlier this week. Compared with the 2019 payment rate, the increase reflects a total increase of $65 million for Medicare-participating inpatient psychiatric facilities in fiscal year 2020. The payment update aligns with the agency’s proposed rule earlier this year. The rule also adds one new claims-based measured starting in fiscal year 2021 payment determination and continuing in subsequent years. The measure—Medication Continuing Following Inpatient Psychiatric Discharge (National Quality Forum #3205)—assesses whether patients admitted to IPFs with diagnoses of Major Depressive Disorder, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder filled at least one evidence-based medication within two days before discharge or during the 30-day, post-discharge period.   CMS Proposes Slight Payment Increase for PHPs and CMHCs in 2020 The CMS has proposed a hospital-based partial hospitalization program (PHP) payment rate of $228.20 for 2020, up from the 2019 rate of $220.86, in the Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System and Ambulatory Surgical Center Payment System (OPPS/ASC) proposed rule the agency released on July 29. CMS also proposed an increase for community mental health centers (CMHCs), which could see a payment rate of $124.59 in 2020 if the rule is made final. By comparison, CMHCs received a payment rate of $120.58 in 2019. The rates set in the proposed CY 2020 rule are not based on the most recent average cost data from the PHP program, a deviation from CMS’ long-standing policy. When CMS calculated the average PHP program cost for the CY 2020 proposed rule, the agency found it had decreased by nearly 15 percent for CMHCs and 11 percent for hospitals-based PHPs. After finding this decrease, CMS reviewed the data sets and found that a single provider in the CMHC set and a single provider in the hospital-based set had such dramatically lower reported costs that it significantly skewed the average cost for both data sets. Because the lower average costs were the result of single providers and could significantly reduce access for beneficiaries, CMS decide to use the CY 2019 cost average as a floor for both type of PHP rates in the CY 2020 rule. If not for this change, the rate for both types of PHPs would have been significantly lower than what CMS proposed in the rule. It is important to note that CMS stressed that it does not intent to carry this policy forward: “To be clear, this policy would only apply for the CY 2020 rate setting,” the agency said in the rule. CY 2020 Rates Level 1 Health and Behavior Services                                                     $28.59 Level 2 Health and Behavior Services                                                     $81.06 Level 3 Health and Behavior Services                                                     $130.27 Partial Hospitalization (3 or more services) for CMHCs                            $124.59 Partial Hospitalization (3 or more services) for Hospital-based PHPs        $228.20   NABH will submit comments on the proposed rule to CMS by the Sept. 27 deadline.   CMS Addresses OUD Treatment in […]
Threat of Sequestration Ends with Bipartisan Budget Act White House and Congressional leaders agreed to large increases in base funding for defense and nondefense spending on Thursday, with the expectation of support by the Senate in a vote next week. The budget deal establishes a funding base above spending cap levels that could trigger mandatory automatic spending cuts, referred to as sequestration. The bipartisan compromise suspends the federal debt ceiling and spending caps for two years, thus marking the end of sequestration that was due to sunset in 2021. Defense spending was increased by $22 billion and nondefense spending was increased by $27 billion. As part of the negotiations, Congressional leadership agreed to avoid the inclusion of any contentious measures that do not have bipartisan support during the FY2020 appropriations process. This agreement will allow for a budget process that will avoid a government shutdown. Medicare Plans Dramatically Reduce Prior Authorization Rates A recent study published in a JAMA Research Letter found large reductions in the percentage of Medicare Part D and Medicare Advantage Plans using prior authorization for buprenorphine medications for opioid use disorder (OUD). In the two years between 2017 and 2019, the percentage of plans using preauthorization for generic buprenorphine-naloxone medications dropped from 96 percent to zero, and for brand buprenorphine-naloxone medication rates dropped from 88 percent to 3 percent. These findings follow two federal policy initiatives: a 2017 buprenorphine labeling change by the Food and Drug Administration, and a 2018 announcement by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) that they would no longer approve Medicare Part D formularies that preauthorize buprenorphine products more than once per year. Looking forward, the study states the importance of the data “because Medicare policy is often viewed as a standard that is subsequently adopted by private health plans and Medicaid.” Tami Mark, lead author of the study said, “Although Medicare has significantly reduced prior authorization for opioid use disorder medications, it is still in common use in Medicaid and private health plans.” Legal Action Center Calls for Removal of Prior Authorization in Medicaid The Legal Action Center (LAC) in a new report calls for Medicaid programs to adopt the successful “Medicare Model” of eliminating prior authorization for medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) and expanding coverage of all FDA-approved medications. Citing the success of a 2018 federal policy that virtually eliminated prior authorization for buprenorphine products in Part D and Medicare Advantage programs (see previous article), LAC reports that most Medicaid plans continue to require prior authorization for OUD medications. Specifically, buprenorphine-naloxone medication requires prior authorization in 40 Medicaid programs, and buprenorphine medication requires authorization in 35 Medicaid programs. Formulary restrictions and dose limitations also pose barriers to medication assisted treatment (MAT). MAT can reduce mortality by almost half. Medicaid covers four out of 10 adults with OUD and thus “plays a significant role in delivering effective OUD treatment and reducing barriers to FDA-approved medications,” the report states.  The Report recommends that CMS issue a guidance letter to State Medicaid Directors to increase the use of all medications for OUD. Arnold Ventures Funds Research on Insurance Fraud […]
House Energy and Commerce Committee Advances No Surprises Act The House Energy and Commerce Committee this week approved legislation to end “surprise” medical bills with the addition of third-party arbitration. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the panel’s ranking member, co-sponsored the No Surprises Act, which advanced through the committee as part of the Reauthorizing and Extending America’s Community Health Act with amendments. Under the bill, healthcare facilities would be required to notify patients at least 24 hours before an elective treatment that an out-of-network provider would be involved in their care. The bill also would prohibit healthcare facilities and providers from balance-billing patients for that care and would establish rates for payments from commercial health plans to providers based on the local market. The initial bill did not include a process for providers and payers to challenge the basic median reimbursement, while the amended version that passed this week includes such a process. Overall hospital groups responded both favorably and cautiously to the news, suggesting that while the bill is significant for offering an arbitration option, the legislation could also set a precedent for the federal government to set private rates. The legislation now moves to the full House for a vote. JAMA Pediatrics Study Shows Parental Drug Use Has Led to Increase in Foster Care Cases A new JAMA Pediatrics study suggests that greater parental drug use has contributed to a rise in foster care caseloads and coincides with increasing trends in opioid use and overdose deaths. Researchers from Weill Cornell Medical College and Harvard Medical School examined data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, a federally mandated collection system that receives case-level information on all children in foster care in the United States. They found that after more than a decade of declines in U.S. foster care caseloads, cases have risen steadily since 2012. Meanwhile, the number of foster care entries attributable to parental drug use rose substantially to 96,672 home removals from 39,130 removals between 2000 and 2017, reflecting a 147-percent increase during that period, according to the findings. “These findings suggest that greater parental drug use has contributed to increases in foster care caseloads and coincide with increasing trends in opioid use and overdose deaths nationwide during this period,” the study said. The authors noted the study’s limitations include potential reporting inconsistencies in parental drug use, and that it’s possible that factors other than drug use influenced entries for parental drug use. “Policymakers must ensure that the needs of this new wave of children entering foster care because of parental drug use are being met through [sic] high-quality foster care interventions,” the study said. “These have been shown to mitigate some of the adverse effects of early childhood deprivation and disruptions in attachment.” NQF Convenes Opioid Use Disorder TEP and Seeks Comment The National Quality Forum (NQF) will convene a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) to oversee a review of measures and concepts related to opioid use, opioid use disorder prevention, treatment, and recovery. In its announcement, the NQF said the move is meant […]
New Quality Summit to Assess HHS’ Quality Programs HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan this week announced the department’s new Quality Summit, which will join government leaders and healthcare industry stakeholders to discuss how to adapt and streamline HHS’ current quality programs in a way that improves outcomes for patients. Hargan will co-chair the Quality Summit with Peter Pronovost, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally renowned expert on healthcare quality and patient safety. In March, Hargan discussed the regulatory barriers that often hinder treatment during his presentation at the 2019 NABH Annual Meeting in Washington. “Over the last decade we have seen efforts by HHS to incentivize the provision of quality care, only to be met with limited success,” Hargan said in a news release. “This is in part because patients have not been empowered with meaningful or actionable information to inform their decision making. At the same time, important quality programs across the department have remained uncoordinated among the various agencies and inconsistent in their demands on healthcare providers,” he added. “We believe the Quality Summit will not only strengthen the protections these programs afford patients, but also improve value by reducing costs and onerous requirements that are placed on providers and ultimately stand between patients and the high-quality care they deserve.” Late last month, President Trump signed the Improving Price and Quality Transparency in American Healthcare to Put Patients First executive order, which directs federal agencies to develop a Health Quality Roadmap intended to align and improve reporting on data and quality measures across federal health programs. OIG Report Finds Opioid Use Decreased and MAT Increased Among Medicare Part D Beneficiaries A new report from HHS’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) found a significant decrease in the number of Medicare Part D beneficiaries who received opioids in 2018 and a steady increase in the number of beneficiaries who received drugs for medication assisted treatment (MAT). Nearly three in 10 Medicare part D beneficiaries received opioids in 2018, the OIG reported, while at the same time the number of beneficiaries who received MAT for opioid use disorder reached 174,000. Meanwhile, about 354,000 beneficiaries received high amounts of opioids in 2018, with about 49,000 of them at serious risk of opioid misuse or overdose—which was also fewer than in the previous two years. “Progress has been made in decreasing opioid use in Part D, increasing the use of drugs for medication assisted treatment, and increasing the availability of naloxone,” the OIG reported noted. “It is imperative for the Department of Health and Human Services— including CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) and OIG— to continue to implement effective strategies and develop new ones to address this epidemic.” O’Neill Institute Evaluates Democratic Candidates’ Views on Addiction and Opioid Crisis The O’Neill Institute at Georgetown Law this week released an analysis of the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates’ plans to address America’s continued opioid crisis. In a post on the O’Neill Institute’s webpage this week, authors Regina LaBelle—a 2019 NABH Annual Meeting speaker—and Leigh Bianchi noted that most all of the presidential candidates have not issued detailed policy proposals on the topic. Instead, their positions on the […]
CDC Provisional Data Show Opioid Deaths Likely to Fall for First Time Since 1990 Provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show drug-overdose deaths are on the brink of declining, but researchers are quick to caution the nation’s deadly opioid crisis is far from over. The CDC’s data predict there were nearly 69,100 drug deaths in the 12-month period ending in November 2018, down from almost 72,300 predicted deaths for the same 12-month period ending in 2017. If the trend continues through December— those data likely will be available next month—then annual drug deaths will fall for the first time since 1990, when about 8,400 people died from overdoses. “I think we’re probably looking at a decline,” Robert Anderson, Ph.D. chief of the Mortality Statistics branch at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, told the Wall Street Journal this week. “We shouldn’t say oh, we’ve won and we’ve defeated the drug-overdose epidemic.” The story reported that health officials and epidemiologists say there is little cause for celebration, especially as the death rate remains “swollen by powerful synthetic opioids like fentanyl.” Meanwhile, the story noted one driving factor for the downward trend has been broadened access to the overdose-reversal drug naloxone, often known by the brand-name Narcan, according to officials in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Jim Hall, an epidemiologist at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, echoed Anderson’s measured optimism in his interview with the Wall Street Journal. “I’m ready to say that the opioid crisis in in early remission, yet at a high risk of relapse,” Hall said. CMS Announces Funding Opportunity for State Medicaid Agencies to Address SUD The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this week that up to $50 million is available to help increase capacity for Medicaid providers to deliver substance use disorder (SUD) treatment and recovery services. The Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act authorized the planning grant funding, which is available to at least 10 states for 18 months, CMS announced in the funding opportunity notice. Meanwhile, up to five states that receive planning grants will be chosen to implement 36-month demonstration projects and receive enhanced federal reimbursement for increased expenditures for SUD treatment and recovery services. Click here to learn more and apply for a grant. Veterans with PTSD More Likely to Die from Suicide, Hepatitis Veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have a higher risk of dying from mental illness and other diseases than the general population, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The study’s researchers analyzed mortality data from nearly 500,000 veterans who started treatment for their PTSD at a Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center between 2008 and 2013 and found that veterans with PTSD were about twice as likely to die from suicide, accidental injuries, and hepatitis than the general population. The study acknowledged a few limitations related to both the sample selection and follow-up. For one, the study’s approach did not account for relevant confounders, including race/ethnicity, psychiatric and medical comorbidity, and treatment. “Although […]
NABH Submits FY 2020 IPF PPS Rule Comments to CMS NABH this week urged the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) not to include any new measures in the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting (IPFQR) program, but instead work with the behavioral healthcare provider community to improve existing measures. That was the broad message in NABH’s comment letter to CMS about the agency’s proposed fiscal year (FY) 2020 inpatient psychiatric facility prospective payment system (IPF PPS) rule. Commenting on CMS’ proposal to develop a new measure for a standardized patient perception of care, NABH President and CEO Mark Covall explained that the majority of NABH members participating in the IPFQR program use some version of a patient perception of care measure; however, there is not one single measure that all providers or a majority of providers use. “Therefore, we have strong concerns that CMS will make it mandatory for behavioral healthcare providers to adopt something such as the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Provider and Systems (HCAHPS) survey,” Covall wrote. NABH also recommended CMS work closely with the behavioral healthcare provider community to develop a safety-planning measure for patients who have suicidal ideation. Click here to read NABH’s letter. SAMHSA Releases The Behavioral Health Barometer, Volume Five The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has released volume five of The Behavioral Health Barometer, one of a series of national, regional, and state reports that offer a glimpse of behavioral health in the United States. “Behavioral Health Barometers for the nation, 10 regions, and all 50 states and the District of Columbia are published as part of SAMHSA’s behavioral health quality improvement approach,” Elinore McCance-Katz, M.D., Ph.D., assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at SAMHSA, wrote in the report’s foreword. “Most importantly, the Behavioral Health Barometers provide critical information in support of SAMHSA’s mission of reducing the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America’s communities.” The 74-page report examines youth, young adult, and adult mental health and substance use as well as adult mental health and mental health service use. SAMHSA also included a special focus on the misuse of prescription pain relievers, heroin use, and medication assisted therapy for opioid addiction. AMA Passes Opioid Policies that Address Barriers to Effective Treatment The American Medical Association (AMA) has approved several opioid-related policies meant to shift the focus of pain treatment back on patients and away from what the association referred to as “arbitrary third-party controls.” Physicians accepted the resolutions at the Chicago-based association’s annual meeting last week. In a news release, the AMA said the measures take aim at barriers to treatment that state and federal authorities, insurers, pharmacy benefit management (PBM) companies, and national pharmacy chains have enacted. ““The barriers include tactics such as prior authorization and step therapy – which can delay treatment – and misguided laws and other policies setting hard thresholds for prescriptions,” the announcement said. One proposal recommends developing treatment plans based on individual needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach of hard thresholds. Another measure opposes pharmacies, PBMs, and insurers using “high prescriber lists,” without due process, to keep […]
Representatives Porter, Bilirakis, and Norcross Introduce Mental Health Parity Compliance Act Reps. Katie Porter (D-Calif.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), and Donald Norcross (D-N.J.) this week introduced the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act, the House version of the bill that Sens. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-La.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) introduced last week. The legislation is based on a best-practice approach that state legislatures in Delaware, Illinois, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. have enacted and ensures that health insurance providers are following the 2008 Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. “As part of removing the stigma for treating mental illness, we must ensure that mental health needs are recognized as legitimate healthcare issues,” Bilirakis said in a news release. “One way to do that is to ensure parity between coverage for healthcare and mental healthcare services—which happens to be the law.” NABH, a Mental Health Liaison Group member, signed on to letters supporting both the House and Senate bills. CMS Issues Request for Information for its Patients Over Paperwork Initiative The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking new ideas from the public about how to continue the agency’s Patients over Paperwork initiative. Launched in 2017, Patients over Paperwork has worked to streamline regulations in healthcare that often take clinicians away from their primary purpose of caring for patients. The new RFI provides an opportunity for the public to share ideas that were not suggested during the first RFI period two years ago. Specifically, CMS is looking for ways to improve reporting and documentation requirements; coding for Medicare and Medicaid payments; prior authorization procedures; policies and requirements for rural providers, clinicians, and beneficiaries; policies and requirements for dually enrolled beneficiaries; beneficiary enrollment and eligibility determination; and CMS processes for issuing regulations and policies. In its comments to CMS, NABH will highlight The High Cost of Compliance, the association’s report that assessed the regulatory burden on the nation’s inpatient psychiatric facilities. Released in March, the report found that three specific regulatory areas impose $1.7 billion in compliance costs each year nationwide, which represent 4.8 percent of an average facility’s annual revenue for all inpatient psychiatric services from all sources. NABH will continue to work with CMS to address the report’s key findings and recommendations. Comments are due by Monday, August 12. HHS’ Office of Adolescent Health Releases Updated Data on Nation’s Teens New data from HHS’ Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) show 31 percent of U.S. high school students in 2017 reported they felt sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks in a row in the past year. The findings are part of OAH’s updated national and state data sheets, which OAH released June 10 to provide estimates on a range of measures related to adolescent health and behavior. The analysis draws on large, nationally representative surveys, and measures include physical activity and nutrition, mentorship, family meals, cigarette and e-cigarette use, driving under the influence, depression systems, bullying, dating violence, and more. ASPE and RTI Recruiting Organizations to Participate in Telehealth Case Studies HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning […]
FAIR Health Analyzes Claims to Determine Behavioral Health Trends from 2007-2017 Claim lines with behavioral health diagnoses increased 108 percent over 10 years, rising to 2.7 percent of all medical claim lines in 2017 from 1.3 percent of all medical claim lines in 2007, according to a new report from not-for-profit organization FAIR Health. Analyzing data from its database of more than 28 billion private healthcare claim records, FAIR Health found that in 2007 and 2017, major depressive disorder (MDD) was the most common diagnosis in the distribution of claim lines with mental health diagnoses, but its share of the distribution fell to 26 percent in 2017 from 28 percent in 2007. Meanwhile, opioid dependence overtook alcohol dependence to occupy the largest share of claim lines with substance use disorder diagnoses, the report said. Although opioid dependence claim lines increased overall during that 10-year period (1,180 percent, growing to 0.252 percent of all medical claim lines from 0.016 percent), they fell 50 percent between 2015 and 2017, the study showed. “FAIR Health conducted this study to provide a strong foundation of key indicators of behavioral health services rendered to the commercial healthcare population,” the report said. “We look forward to providing additional layers to this analysis, including the nature of the services rendered, the type of venue where services were rendered (including telehealth access) and the specialties of the healthcare professionals providing the services.” FAIR Health is a national, independent organization that collects data for and manages the nation’s largest database of privately billed health insurance claims and has Medicare parts A, B, and D claims data from 2013 to the present. Lancet Study Identifies Alcohol Use as a Leading Risk Factor for Global Disease Burden Alcohol use is a leading risk factor for global disease burden, and data on alcohol exposure are crucial to evaluate progress in achieving global, non-communicable disease goals, says a recent modelling study published in The Lancet. The study presents estimates on the main indicators of alcohol exposure in 189 countries from 1990 through 2017 and includes forecasts up to the year 2030. “Based on these data, global goals for reducing the harmful use of alcohol are unlikely to be achieved,” the study’s abstract noted, “and known effective and cost-effective policy measures should be implemented to reduce alcohol exposure. The Joint Commission Releases Standards FAQ Details on Suicide Risk Reduction The Joint Commission this week released a series of Standards FAQ Details related to suicide risk reduction. This series of six Standards FAQ Details center on hospital emergency departments, and include assessing suicide risk, monitoring patients, ligature-resistant requirements, ligature risks that cannot be removed, and safe rooms. NABH Submits Comments to MACPAC on Regulatory Environment in IMDs NABH on Friday sent comments to the Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission about the regulatory environment for Institutions for Mental Diseases (IMDs). In it, NABH highlighted its recent regulatory report, The High Cost of Compliance: Assessing the Regulatory Burden on Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities, and discussed how the bulk of regulatory costs imposed on the nation’s inpatient psychiatric facilities relate to B-tags and ligature-risk requirements. “Psychiatric providers […]
Mental Health Liaison Group Supports Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act NABH and more than 40 other organizations that comprise the Mental Health Liaison Group this week sent letters to House and Senate lawmakers that expressed strong support for the Behavioral Health Coverage Transparency Act of 2019. “In unity, we advocated tirelessly for the enactment of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 and recognize that increased transparency and improved accountability of health insurers is essential to fully realizing both the letter and spirit of this landmark law, and its application to the Affordable Care Act,” the letter said. The legislation would require issuers to disclose the analysis they perform in making parity determinations, as well as their denial rates for mental health versus medical/surgical claims and reasons for those denials. In addition, the bill would require federal regulators to conduct a minimum of 12 random audits of health plans per year, and it would create a central online portal for consumers to access publicly available material, such as information about their parity rights and information insurers submit about how they make parity decisions. NABH will keep members apprised of the legislation’s progress. SAMHSA Releases Report on Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness The needs and growth of America’s older population with serious mental illness (SMI) exceeds the number of behavioral health providers who are trained in geriatric care, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The analysis, Older Adults Living with Serious Mental Illness: The State of the Behavioral Health Workforce, notes that of the 49.2 million adults over the age of 65 years old in the United States, 1.4 to 4.8 percent suffer from SMI. Meanwhile, the U.S. Census Bureau’s National Population Projections show that by 2030, all Baby Boomers— those born between the years 1946-1965—will be older than age 65. At that point, the number of older adults will exceed the number of children. SAMHSA’s report also includes information about workforce barriers, ideas for strengthening the geriatric workforce to address SMI, programs and resources that address the needs of older Americans, and recommendations. Sen. Tina Smith Shares Experience with Depression During Mental Health Month In conjunction with Mental Health Month, Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) shared her personal experience with depression in remarks she gave last week on the U.S. Senate floor. Smith, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labors and Pensions (HELP) Committee, noted that de-stigmatizing and de-mystifying mental illness is just the beginning, and that everyone can help those in need by urging them to take advantage of available resources. “But the 100 of us here in the Senate have a responsibility to make sure those resources are available to everyone,” Smith said. “We can’t afford to leave holes in the net we build to catch people when they fall.” Click here to read Sen. Smith’s remarks as prepared for delivery and to download the video of her remarks. U.S. News Analysis Shows Link Between Racial Bullying and Risky Health Behavior in Kids Students in California’s public high schools who […]
America’s Health Rankings’ Senior Report Shows Rise in Excessive Drinking and Depression Excessive drinking increased 12 percent from 2016 to 2019 among the nation’s seniors, while the percentage of seniors who reported a health professional has told them they have depression has risen 19 percent in the last year alone, according to America’s Health Rankings’ Senior Report  for 2019. Produced by the United Health Foundation, UnitedHealth Group’s not-for-profit arm, America’s Health Rankings has provided an analysis of national health for 30 years and relies on health, environmental, and socioeconomic data to determine national health benchmarks and state rankings. This year’s Senior Report included a special comparison of data from 2002 and 2017 to show how the health of younger seniors aged 65 to 74 has changed in the last 15 years. Younger seniors now represent 9.1 percent of the U.S. population compared with 6.4 percent of the U.S. population in 2002. Comparing 2017 with 2002, the report showed that excessive drinking is 42 percent higher, obesity is 36 percent higher, and death by suicide is 16 percent higher. All of the results were not negative, however. The findings also showed that among younger seniors today, the death rate is 22 percent lower, smoking is 16 percent lower, and reporting of “very good or excellent health” is 11 percent higher. HRSA Awards $24 million to 120 Rural Organizations for Opioid Response HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy this week awarded $24 million for the second round of Rural Communities Opioid Response Program (RCORP) planning grants. Award recipients across 40 states will receive $200,000 for one year to formalize partnerships with local stakeholders, conduct needs assessments, and develop plans to implement and sustain substance use disorder (SUD), including opioid use disorder (OUD) prevention, treatment, and recovery interventions. The goal, according to a statement from HRSA Administrator George Sigounas, M.S., Ph.D., is to reduce the morbidity and mortality of the diseases in high-risk, rural communities. A complete list of all grant recipients is available here. For more information about the RCORP initiative, please contact the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Separately, the American Farm Bureau Federation this month sponsored a Morning Consult poll that surveyed rural adults and farmers/farmworkers to better understand factors that affect the mental health of farmers, availability of resources, perceptions of stigma, personal experiences with mental health challenges, and other relevant topics. According to the poll, farmers and farmworkers said financial issues (91 percent), farm or business problems (88 percent), and fear of losing the farm (87 percent) affect farmers’ mental health. Other factors included stress, weather, the economy, isolation, and social stigma. DEA Online Form Available for Physicians Reporting Phone Scams Physicians should be aware of a reported uptick in phone scams from people posing as U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or other federal agents, and report these practices in the DEA’s online form. Earlier this year, the DEA—an agency under the U.S. Justice Department—warned DEA-registered practitioners and members of the public to be cautious of telephone calls from criminals posting as DEA or other law enforcement personnel threatening arrest and […]
SUPPORT Act Expands Access to Medication Assisted Treatment The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced this week that several sections of last year’s SUPPORT Act made changes to the Controlled Substance Act that affords practitioners with greater flexibility in providing medication assisted treatment, or MAT, to patients. Signed into law in October 2018, the Substance Use Disorder Prevention that Promotes Opioid Recovery and Treatment for Patients and Communities (SUPPORT) Act  allows qualified physicians who are board-certified in addiction medicine or addiction psychiatry, or practitioners who provide MAT in a qualified practice setting,  start treating up to 100 patients in the first year of MAT practice with a waiver. According to SAMHSA, current practitioners with an approved waiver from the agency that authorizes them to treat a maximum of 30 patients at one time are permitted to increase that number to 100 patients if they provide SAMHSA with a notification of their intention to treat 100 patients. Rep. Tonko Expected to Introduce Bill to Deregulate Addiction Treatment Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) is expected to introduce legislation next week that would allow physicians to prescribe the addiction-treatment drug buprenorphine without restrictions. Life sciences and medical news outlet STAT reports that about 5 percent of U.S. physicians have undergone the eight-hour training required to prescribe buprenorphine (commonly marked as Suboxone). The bill from Tonko follows a recent announcement that the U.S. Justice Department filed suit again buprenorphine’s best-known manufacturer, Indivior, the British firm that has been accused of marketing Suboxone fraudulently as being safer than generic alternatives. Health Systems Commit to Transforming Behavioral Health in 100 Communities Nationwide Twenty-eight health systems met this week to kick off a new effort to transform the country’s behavioral healthcare resources especially in underserved communities. The collective effort is part of the Medicaid Transformation Project, a national initiative announced last year that is intended to transform healthcare and related social needs for the nearly 75 million Americans who are Medicaid beneficiaries. The announcement came from AVIA, a network of health systems. Citing statistics from SAMHSA, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the Kaiser Family Foundation, Avia noted in its announcement that 44.7 million American adults—including 10 million adults covered by Medicaid—experienced a mental health illness as of 2016, a number that is likely underestimated due to stigma issues. Meanwhile, about 35 percent of adults with a serious mental illness are not receiving mental health treatment. “As jarring as the national behavioral health statistics are, they only serve as the tip of the iceberg for the long-term consequences that we risk if we don’t take wide-reaching, decisive action to address this crisis today,” Andy Slavitt, chair for the Medicaid Transformation Project and former acting administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said in a news release. “Twenty-eight healthcare organizations have stepped up to proclaim with a singular, unmistakable voice that enough is enough,” Slavitt continued. “Within the next year, I expect dozens of new positive initiatives to launch. Within five to seven years, we could spark the transformation the country needs.” Last month, Molly Joel Coye, MD, MPH, physician leader in Medicaid […]
OTPs to Follow Standard Care Recommendations for People with Suicide Risk The nation’s opioid treatment programs will be begin following the National Action Alliance (Action Alliance) for Suicide Prevention’s recommended guidelines to care for people with suicide risk in June, the news outlet Stateline reported this week. The story cited statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that found people with an opioid addiction are at much higher risk for suicide than the rest of the population, and that opioid use was a contributing factor in more than 40 percent of all suicide and overdose deaths in 2017. Guidelines from the Action Alliance will become facilities’ minimum standard of care for patients in both inpatient and outpatient addiction-treatment settings, Michael Johnson, managing director for the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, which oversees opioid treatment programs, said in the story. “Right now, there’s no real standards for suicide prevention in addiction treatment programs,” Johnson told Stateline. “We want to change that.” The Action Alliance is a public-private partnership that works to advance the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention and reduce the nation’s suicide rate 20 percent by 2025. Report Finds Older Americans Turning to Suicide in Long-Term Care Settings A six-month investigation from Kaiser Health News (KHN) and the PBS NewsHour has found older Americans are dying by suicide in the nation’s nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult care homes. KHN analysis of new data from the University of Michigan data suggests that hundreds of suicides by older adults each year, or nearly one per day, are related to long-term care. Meanwhile, thousands more people may be at risk in those settings, where up to a third of residents report suicidal reports, the research found. “Each suicide results from a unique blend of factors, of course,” the study noted. “But the fact that frail older Americans are managing to kill themselves in what are supposed to be safe, supervised havens raises questions about whether these facilities pay enough attention to risk factors like mental health, physical decline, and disconnectedness—and events such as losing a spouse or leaving one’s home,” it continued. “More controversial is whether older adults in those settings should be able to take their lives through what some fiercely defend as ‘rational suicide.’” CDC Finds Kratom Has Caused Nearly 100 Overdose Deaths in the United States The CDC has reported the herbal supplement kratom has caused 91 overdose deaths in 27 states from July 2016-December 2017. Kratom, a plant native to Southeast Asia, contains the alkaloid mitragynine, which the CDC reports can produce stimulant effects in low doses and some opioid-like effects at higher doses when consumed. “As of April 2019, kratom was not scheduled as a controlled substance,” the CDC report noted. “However, since 2012, the Food and Drug Administration has taken a number of actions related to kratom, and in November 2017 issued a public health advisory; in addition, the Drug Enforcement Administration has identified kratom as a drug of concern,” it added. “During 2011–2017, the national poison center reporting database documented 1,807 calls concerning reported exposure to kratom.” FDA Announces Reports […]
China Bans All Types of Fentanyl, Cutting U.S. Supply China this week announced it would ban all types of the opioid fentanyl, a decision that could slow the supply of the deadly drug to the United States. The decision fulfills a pledge that Chinese leader Xi Jinping made to President Trump in December. House Energy and Commerce Republicans hailed the move in a blog post, noting that fentanyl analogues—synthetic opioids that are 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine—are the leading cause of opioid overdose deaths in the United States. ONC Issues Proposed Rule to Revise Conditions of Participation HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has issued a proposed rule that would revise the conditions of participation for psychiatric hospitals and require facilities that have electronic health record (EHR) systems “to send electronic patient event notifications of a patient’s admission, discharge, and/or transfer to another health care facility or to another community provider.” The proposal would limit this requirement to only those Medicare- and Medicaid-participating hospitals that possess EHRs systems with the technical capacity to generate information for electronic patient event notifications. NABH is drafting comments on the proposed rule. House and Senate Introduce Bipartisan Bills to Align 42 CFR Part 2 With HIPAA Identical, bipartisan bills were introduced in the House and Senate this week to align 42 CFR Part 2, commonly referred to as Part 2, with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for treatment, payment, and healthcare operations, while also strengthening protections against the use of addiction records in criminal, civil, or administrative proceedings. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) and Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) introduced the Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act, or OPPS Act, while Senators Shelley Moore Caputo (R-W.V.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) introduced Protecting Jessica Grubb’s Legacy Act, or the Legacy Act. NABH, a member of the Partnership to Amend 42 CFR Part 2, supports both pieces of legislation. GAO Finds Nearly 40 Million American Adults Have Untreated Substance Use Disorders or Mental Health Conditions A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report found that nearly 40 million American adults have untreated substance use disorders or mental health conditions, such as depression. According to the national survey, many of these Americans don’t think they need treatment, while others say it’s hard to get care. Left untreated, these behavioral health conditions can cause other health complications—such as drug overdoses—which, in turn, can raise healthcare costs. The GAO noted that the studies it reviewed were limited to specific conditions or locations, and most found higher healthcare costs for adults who didn’t receive behavioral healthcare treatment. There is no generally accepted estimate of the overall costs, the report said. Emergency Medicine News Releases Special Report on Psychiatric Patient Boarding The decline in the number of inpatient psychiatric beds available nationwide could be the most significant factor to help explain the increase in Emergency Department (ED) wait times for psychiatric patients, according to a special report published in Emergency Medicine News. “Those dropped 35 percent between 1998 and 2013,” the report noted, citing JAMA, “And the drop wasn’t […]
Centene Will Acquire WellCare for $17.3 billion Centene Corp. will acquire WellCare Health Plans, Inc. for $17.3 billion in a deal the two companies announced this week will create a new venture focused on government-sponsored healthcare programs that will have about 22 million members across all 50 states and combined revenue of about $100 billion. News outlet Politico reported that while Centene’s major focus is Medicaid managed care—where it had about 14 million members at the end of 2018—the health insurer has also emerged as a significant player in the Obamacare markets, with about 2 million members across 21 states, or nearly one in five exchange enrollees nationwide, at the start of this year. In 2016, Centene acquired Health Net, another Medicaid managed care plan, for $6.3 billion. Centene and WellCare said in a joint news release the board of the combined company will consist of 11 members, including nine members from Centene’s board and two from WellCare’s board. Centene’s Michael Neidorff will lead the combined company as chairman and chief executive officer, while Ken Burdick and Drew Asher from WellCare are expected to join Centene’s senior management team in new positions as a result of the acquisition. The National Academies Says Medications to Treat OUD Are Effective, but Barriers Prevent Access and Use Three U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications to treat opioid use disorder (OUD) are both safe and effective, but most people who would benefit from these treatments do not receive them and access is inequitable, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. According to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder Saves Lives, withholding or failing to have available these medications to treat OUD in any care or criminal justice setting is denying appropriate medical treatment. The report identified misunderstanding and stigma, inadequate education and training, current regulations, and the fragmented system of care for people with OUD as the barriers to treatment. “The United States is experiencing a public health crisis of almost unprecedented scale — an epidemic of opioid use disorder and related overdose deaths,” Alan Leshner, chief executive officer emeritus of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and chair of the committee that conducted the study, said in a news release. “The factors impeding full use of FDA-approved medications to treat OUD must be addressed, including stigma surrounding both addiction and the medications used to treat it as well as counterproductive ideologies that consider addiction simply a failure of will or a moral weakness, as opposed to understanding that opioid use disorder is a chronic disease of the brain that requires medical treatment,” he continued. “Curbing the epidemic will require an ‘all hands on deck’ strategy across every sector — healthcare, criminal justice, people with OUD and their family members, and beyond — in order to make meaningful progress in resolving this crisis.” ASTHO Recommends Approaches to SUD Prevention and Treatment The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) and the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) have released four recommendations on how public health and Medicaid agencies can engage in cross-agency work […]
NABH Launches Access to Care Initiative at 2019 Annual Meeting NABH this week kicked off Access to Care, the association’s new initiative that will provide information and resources to help inform policymakers, regulators, payers, and patient advocates that only true access can lead to recovery. Access to Care focuses on two major challenges: unjust managed care contracts and countless regulations, both of which often prevent behavioral healthcare providers from offering patients a full range of services. As part of this initiative, the NABH Board of Trustees on March 18 adopted the Access to Care resolution, which addresses unfair managed-care practices and recommends guiding principles for providers and payers to incorporate in contracts with managed care organizations (MCOs). NABH’s provider systems are committed to ensuring patient access to behavioral healthcare treatment across the entire behavioral healthcare continuum, which includes inpatient, residential, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient, outpatient, and recovery and support services. Too often, MCOs limit coverage to crisis stabilization or short-term, acute-care services for all levels of care because they use internally developed and/or proprietary and non-transparent, medical-necessity criteria. “As our Access to Care resolution states, ‘Fair and appropriate coverage for behavioral healthcare services must ensure—not solely offer—access to the entire behavioral healthcare continuum,” NABH Board Chair Pat Hammer, president and CEO of Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Rogers Behavioral Health, said in a news release about the resolution. “For this to happen, fair and reasonable managed care contracts must include and apply generally accepted standards of professional practice.” NABH created a Managed Care Committee last fall to identify problems and propose solutions in managed care contracts. The association shared copies of the resolution with attendees at the meeting and NABH Board Chair Pat Hammer introduced NABH’s Access to Care video—which personalizes behavioral healthcare services—at the Annual Meeting’s opening session. On March 19, NABH released The High Cost of Compliance: Assessing the Regulatory Burden on Inpatient Psychiatric Facilities, a comprehensive report that examines the burdens that certain regulations impose on the nation’s inpatient psychiatric facilities. commissioned Manatt Health to conduct this first-of-its-kind study that focuses on three federal regulatory domains attached to participation in the Medicare program: the so-called “B-tag” requirements, a detailed set of standards for patient evaluations, medical records, and staffing in inpatient psychiatric facilities; “ligature risk points,” or those aspects of the physical environment that a patient could use to attempt self-strangulation; and the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), which obligates a hospital to screen all patients for emergency medical conditions, and, if an emergency condition is identified, to stabilize the patient before the patient may be discharged or transferred. The findings estimate that, taken together, these three regulatory areas impose $1.7 billion in compliance costs nationwide each year. Put another way, these regulatory burdens represent about 4.8 percent of an average facility’s annual revenue for all inpatient services from all sources. NABH President and CEO Mark Covall presented a copy of the report to HHS Deputy Secretary Eric Hargan on Tuesday before the deputy secretary addressed Annual Meeting attendees. In his presentation, Deputy Secy. Hargan called the report “timely” and later tweeted about how he had the opportunity […]
President’s Budget Maintains Opioid Funding Levels and Cuts Behavioral Healthcare Funding In his Fiscal Year 2020 budget released this week, President Donald Trump proposed $4.8 billion—which maintains congressional funding levels—to combat the nation’s opioid crisis and proposed hundreds of millions in funding cuts to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) budget and to behavioral healthcare research. According to the president’s proposal, SAMHSA would see a $65 million cut to its total budget, while the behavioral healthcare-related institutes within the National Institutes of Health would see even more severe funding decreases with $436 million in cuts to behavioral healthcare research. For the third year in a row, the president has proposed cutting the Office of National Drug Control Policy’s by more than 95 percent and repealing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. The budget proposal would also require states to choose between a per-capita cap or a block grant for their Medicaid programs. Each year, the president’s budget is important because it provides a blueprint for the president’s priorities and policy recommendations to Congress. The president’s budget is also significant because it marks the start of the legislative appropriations process. Watch HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s testimony about the Trump administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget here. National Survey Shows More Teens and Young Adults Experiencing Mental Health Issues A new nationwide survey found a 50-percent increase in depressive episodes for individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 between 2005 and 2017. Published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, the study examined 200,000 people aged 12–17 and 400,000 people aged 18 and older at various points between 2005 and 2017 about any psychological distress and depressive episodes they had experienced. The findings showed a slightly bigger increase—63 percent—in young adults aged 18–25 than in the younger age group. “Cultural trends contributing to an increase in mood disorders and suicidal thoughts and behaviors since the mid-2000s, including the rise of electronic communication and digital media and declines in sleep duration, may have had a larger impact on younger people, creating a cohort effect,” the study said. In its general scientific summary, the study noted that more “U.S. adolescents and young adults in the late 2010s (versus the mid-2000s) experienced psychological distress, major depression, and suicidal thoughts, and more (people) attempted suicide, and took their own lives.” SAMHSA Releases Guidance on Strategies to Promote Best Practice in Antipsychotic Prescribing for Children and Adolescents SAMHSA has released its Guidance On Strategies to Promote Best Practice in Antipsychotic Prescribing for Children and Adolescents. The new resource offers six key principles for system-level strategies, including youth and family engagement, a multi-modal approach, prescribing clinician engagement, consideration for the unique needs of special populations, coordination with other youth-serving systems, and sustainable financing mechanisms. SAMHSA Releases Principles of Community-Based Behavioral Health Services for Criminal Justice Involved Individuals SAMHSA recently released Principles of Community-Based Behavioral Health Services for Criminal Justice Involved Individuals to provide a framework for a quality, community-based behavioral health treatment system that responds to individuals with mental and substance use disorders. The guide is meant to help community-based behavioral healthcare providers […]
NABH Applauds Landmark Behavioral Healthcare Coverage Ruling in California NABH applauded the decision filed in California’s Northern District earlier this week that will open access to behavioral healthcare services for those who need it. “It has been 10 years since President George W. Bush signed the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, and we have yet to achieve full parity,” NABH President and CEO Mark Covall said in a statement on March 5. “Today’s decision in California’s Northern District is a turning point. The federal court’s ruling made it clear that insurance companies must use generally accepted standards in the full behavioral healthcare continuum to help patients gain access to the care they need for recovery.” In a nationwide class action lawsuit, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Tuesday held that United Behavioral Health (UBH) — the country’s largest managed behavioral healthcare organization — developed restrictive medical-necessity criteria that it used to deny coverage for outpatient, intensive outpatient, and residential treatment services. According to the decision, the Court found that UBH’s internal guidelines limited coverage to acute care services, disregarding highly prevalent, chronic, and co-occurring disorders that required greater intensity and/or duration. The Court also found that UBH failed to meet a requirement related to children and adolescents, asserting that although generally accepted standards of care do not require UBH to “create an entirely separate set of guidelines to address the needs of children and adolescents… they do, however, require that UBH’s guidelines instruct decision-makers to apply different standards when making coverage decisions involving children and adolescents, where applicable, including relaxing the criteria for admission and continued stay to take into account their stage of development and the slower pace at which children and adolescents generally respond to treatment.” NABH is especially pleased to see the Court acknowledge that mental health and substance use disorders are chronic illnesses, and that managed care organizations must cover care that not only stabilizes the acute aspects of a patient’s illness, but also addresses a patient’s underlying condition. President Trump Creates Task Force to Develop Blueprint for Suicide Prevention Among Veterans President Trump this week signed an executive order creating a Cabinet-level task force to draft a blueprint for suicide prevention among veterans within one year. The new President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PRESENTS) initiative will work to develop a grant system that extends funding to state and local programs and coordinate suicide-prevention research across agencies in the Veterans Affairs, Defense, and Homeland Security departments. Bipartisan Group of Senators Ask HHS to Update Part 2 Thirteen U.S. senators this week sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar asking his department to initiate a rulemaking process to update the Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records 42 Code of Regulations 2, known as Part 2. “Part 2 provisions are not compatible with the way health care is delivered currently,” said the letter from 7 Republicans and 6 Democrats. “In order to bring them in line with 21st Century medicine, it is imperative to modernize the […]
HHS Assesses Impact of Parity in Large Group Employer-Sponsored Insurance Market The Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008 had a “significant positive impact” on the frequency of outpatient services for both mental health and substance use disorder (SUD), HHS reported this week in Assessing the Impact of Parity in the Large Group Employer-Sponsored Insurance Market. The 111-page report from the department’s assistant secretary for planning and evaluation office of disability, aging, and long-term care policy defined frequency as the average number of outpatient services used per service user. HHS concluded the magnitude of the law’s impact on SUD outpatient services was about 10 times larger than the magnitude for mental health outpatient services. Meanwhile, the analysis found that while the 2008 law had a positive and significant impact on average spending by the insurer (for both mental health and SUD outpatient services) and the enrollee (for SUD outpatient services), there was little impact on enrollee cost sharing and no impact on reimbursement rates to providers. The report also evaluated the findings in the context of the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis “The impact of MHPAEA on utilization of SUD outpatient services was not due to the OUD (opioid use disorder) epidemic,” the study said. “MHPAEA affected both OUD and other non-OUD SUD diagnosis groups in a similar way, increasing confidence that the changes observed at the point of parity implementation were due to parity and not to the OUD crisis,” it continued. “However, we did observe a greater magnitude of impact of MHPAEA for OUD outpatient services, suggesting that the influx of individuals with OUD diagnoses during the same timeframe as parity implementation interacted to some extent.” CMS Updates Data for the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ Hospital Compare website this week added six new measures to the Inpatient Psychiatric Facility Quality Reporting Program (IPFQRP). Hospital Compare reports information on about 100 quality measures for more than 4,000 hospitals nationwide, including Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and Department of Defense (DoD) military hospitals. For questions about the IPFQRP, please e-mail the Hospital Inpatient Value, Incentives, and Quality Reporting Outreach and Education Support contract team through the Questions and Answers tool or call either of these toll-free numbers on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET: 844-472-4477, or 866-800-8765. VA Helps Veterans Manage Chronic Pain Without Opioids The Veterans Affairs (VA) Department’s new virtual reality program is helping the nation’s veterans manage chronic pain without opioids. The program provides veterans with different medical issues—including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, stroke, amputations, or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)—with an alternative to using drugs such as opioids. Instead, veterans use a virtual reality headset or a large monitor screen to experience virtual scenic settings with music and narration. “Virtual reality is able to take the user someplace else they’d rather be,” Jamie Kaplan, a recreational therapist at the VA, said in a blog post. “For example, virtual games and activities can allow the wheelchair use to experience freedom from the limitations they face in everyday life.” […]
Commonwealth Fund Summarizes Care Programs for Patients with Complex Needs The Commonwealth Fund has released a Quick Reference Guide to Promising Care Models for Patients with Complex Needs, which summarizes the target populations and key features of 28 care models for adults with complex needs, including behavioral health. This guide was updated this year using the original version of the Quick Reference Guide that was developed in December 2016, data from a survey that the Center for Health Care Strategies conducted for the Better Care Playbook’s State Map, and literature searches. The Commonwealth Fund included models that targeted adults with complex needs; provided at least one element of patient-centered care; and had strong, moderate, or promising evidence on at least one outcome related to quality, utilization, or cost. Massachusetts to Help Test New Addiction Treatment Rating System Massachusetts will participate in a new rating system developed to measure the quality of addiction treatment programs, the Associated Press reported earlier this week. Health officials for the commonwealth said the rating system will use data from insurance claims, provider surveys, and consumer-experience surveys. The information will be made public to those seeking addiction treatment, as well as to public and private payers, states, and referral sources. The national not-for-profit organization Shatterproof is developing the rating system. If successful, the pilot program will be launched nationwide. Pew Research Center Reports Teens See Anxiety, Depression Among Their Peers Seven in 10 teens today see anxiety and depression as major problems among their peers, says a new report from the Pew Research Center. Anxiety and depression top the list of problems teens see among their peers, ahead of bullying, drug addiction, alcohol, poverty, teen pregnancy, and gangs, according to the survey of U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 17. The study also noted that mental health concerns cross income boundaries, while teen pregnancy is seen as a much bigger problems by teens in lower-income households. Stanford Study Finds Opioids Less Effective for Patients on SSRI Antidepressants Patients who take the most common form of antidepressant and are given the most widely prescribed opioid experience less pain relief, according to a study this month from the Stanford University School of Medicine. Researchers say the finding could help address the nation’s opioid crisis because poorly managed pain may lead to opioid misuse. The study noted that as many as 1 in 6 American takes antidepressants, mostly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Stanford’s research team found that SSRIs reduce the effectiveness of hydrocodone and codeine, which are often prescribed to patients who recently had surgery. “This research is part of our effort to find ways to combat the opioid epidemic,” Tina Hernandez-Boussard, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine, of biomedical data science, and of surgery at Stanford, said in a statement. “We’re very interested in identifying how we can reduce opioid exposure while still managing patients’ pain.” CMS Presents Podcast Series to Inform Broader Audience The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) this week presented CMS: Beyond the Policy, a new podcast series intended to provide important, timely information to a broad audience. Through its […]
SAMHSA Reports Total Behavioral Health Spending Rose 62 Percent from 2006-2015 Total mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) treatment spending rose about 62 percent to $212 billion in 2015 from $131 billion in 2006, according to a new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The federal health agency noted in its 72-page analysis that SUD spending was more pronounced than mental health spending, particularly between 2010-2015, when spending climbed to $56 billion from $23 billion. Spending growth for mental health, meanwhile, generally matched total healthcare spending growth between 2006 and 2015. “Public versus private spending on mental health was relatively constant, with private spending accounting for 42 percent of spending in 2015,” the report noted. “Conversely, spending on SUD treatment saw greater growth and major shifts in payer sources and care settings compared with mental and total health spending,” it continued. “Private insurance and Medicaid both became larger payers of SUD treatment.” NIDA Releases 2018 Monitoring the Future Survey Results Prescription opioid misuse has dropped significantly among the nation’s 12th graders in the last five years, while vaping rates are second only to alcohol among substances surveyed, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported in the 2018 Monitoring the Future (MTF) survey released this week. Researchers at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan conduct the annual survey of 8th, 10th, and 12th graders under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Since 1975, the survey has measured how 12th graders report their drug and alcohol use; the survey added 8th and 10th graders to the survey in 1991. In 2018, 44,482 students from 392 public and private schools participated. The report noted there has been a significant decline in monthly cigarette use among 12thgraders since 1993, while the rate of monthly marijuana use has increased. Monthly cigarette use among 12th graders was 7.6 percent in 2018, compared with a rate of 36.5 percent in 1997, the peak year for cigarette use among teams. Meanwhile, the rate for monthly marijuana use among teens was 22.2 percent in 2018, compared with a rate of 15.5 percent in 1993. CMS and ONC Propose Rules to Improve Electronic Health Information Interoperability The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) this week proposed rules intended to support the secure access, exchange, and use of electronic health information seamlessly. CMS has proposed that Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare Advantage plans and Qualified Health Plans in the federal health insurance exchanges must provide enrollees with immediate electronic access to medical claims and other health information electronically by 2020. To support patient-centered healthcare, CMS would require these healthcare providers and plans to implement open data sharing technologies to support transitions of care as patients move between these plan types. “Today’s announcement builds on CMS’ efforts to create a more interoperable healthcare system, which improves patient access, seamless data exchange, and enhanced care coordination,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in an announcement.  “By requiring health insurers to share their information in an […]
NEJM Article Reinforces Themes from NABH’s ‘Pathways to Care’ White Paper In a recent issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, authors of a study about the nation’s emergency departments echoed similar themes and recommendations that NABH provides in Pathways to Care: Treating Opioid and Substance Use Disorders. In their article “Emergency Departments—A 24/7/365 Option for Combating the Opioid Crisis,” Gail D’Onofrio, M.D. and Kathryn Hawk, M.D., M.H.S. of the Yale University School of Medicine, along with Ryan P. McCormack, M.D. of the New York University School of Medicine, recommend encouraging emergency departments to initiate buprenorphine as well as establish relationships with community treatment providers to expedite treatment referrals. Meanwhile, D’Onofrio notes that providing buprenorphine in the emergency department can reduce withdrawal within 20 minutes, thereby supporting adherence to a 60-90 minute benchmark for discharge in urgent care settings; buprenorphine can reduce violence in the emergency department that may result from the irritability of withdrawal; emergency departments that provide services/medications for opioid use disorder have not seen an influx of new patients, which helps alleviate concerns that patients might overuse the nation’s emergency departments as portals to treatment; and, lastly, that momentum is growing for hospitals to open clinics to continue emergency department-initiated medication treatment.   Vaping the Most Common Use of Any Tobacco-Like Product Among Adolescents in 2017 Vaping was the most common use of any tobacco-like product among adolescents in 2017, reflecting a rapid increase from a near-zero prevalence of vaping in 2011, according to a recent analysis from researchers at the University of Michigan and University of Minnesota. Data for the study came from Monitoring the Future, which surveys nationally representative independent samples of students in the 8th, 10th, and 12th grades each year. The study’s authors wrote about their findings in a recent letter to the editor of The New England Journal of Medicine. “The rapid entry of new vaping devices on the market, the latest example of which is the Juul, will require continual updates and modification of strategies to keep adolescents from vaping and its associated negative health effects,” the authors noted. Register Now for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week There is still time to register for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, which connects students with scientists and other experts to counteract myths about drugs and alcohol. This year’s National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week will be held from Jan. 22 through Jan. 27, with a Chat Day scheduled for Jan. 24. Click here to learn more and register an event. NABH Immediate Past Board Chair Brent Turner Provides Year in Review for 2018 The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, NABH’s Pathways to Care white paper, and the association’s rebrand were among the industry highlights and association improvements that 2018 Board Chair Brent Turner highlighted this week in his Year in Review for members. “We still have more work to do to repeal the IMD exclusion completely. At the same time, we should be proud of the work we have done individually and collectively on this issue since 2013,” wrote Turner, president of Acadia Healthcare. “Back then, some industry stakeholders […]
Senate Confirms Jim Carroll as Nation’s ‘Drug Czar’ The Senate this week confirmed Jim Carroll as the director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP). Carroll had served as acting director at ONDCP since last February, and President Trump nominated him as permanent director in late April. This is the nation’s first permanent “drug czar” since Michael Botticelli held the post from 2014 until 2017 during the Obama administration. Carroll has served as White House Chief of Staff and earlier held positions at the Office of Management and Budget as well the Office of the White House Counsel. Joint Commission Publishes Report on Improving Depression Screening Depression is the leading cause of disability and often goes unaddressed, particularly for minorities, immigrants, and refugees, according to a new study published in the January 2019 issue of The Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety. The article — “Not Missing the Opportunity: Improving Depression Screening and Follow-Up in a Multicultural Community”— also reports that although evidence-based guidelines recommend screening for the adequate diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of depression, only seven states report depression screening and follow up. Researchers implemented the following four core interventions at a rural, federally qualified health center that were shown to improve results: using written, standardized Patient Health Questionnaire (PHW) screening tools in six languages; using a standardized tool to help clients who screen positive for depression to share what matters most to them; using a “right care” tracking log to assist providers in documenting follow-up phone calls and visits for clients who screen positive for depression; and hosting team meetings and in-services to support building capacity. Click here to access the article. Alcohol-related Deaths on the Rise Alcohol misuse accounted for 35,823 deaths in 2017, reflecting a nearly 46-percent increase over almost two decades, according to an investigative report in the Washington Examiner that used Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The data showed that alcohol-related deaths have increased steadily since the 19,469 deaths related to alcohol misuse that were recorded in 1999. Meanwhile, deaths from misusing alcohol did not decline at any time since that period, and they included alcohol poisonings, alcoholic liver disease, and cirrhosis. The story noted that the figures do not include deaths from accidents people have while they are drinking, because in those cases the cause of death would be from drowning, a car accident, or a fall. Pat Hammer Begins Term as 2019 NABH Board Chair Congratulations to Pat Hammer, president and CEO of Oconomowoc, Wis.-based Rogers Behavioral Health, who began his term as 2019 NABH Board Chair on Jan. 1. Hammer succeeds Acadia Healthcare President Brent Turner in the position. Following the recent Board elections, Jim Shaheen, president of Strategic Behavioral Health in Memphis, Tenn., is now Board Chair-elect; and Jennifer Ziccardi-Colson, chief nurse executive and vice president for behavioral health at Atrium Health’s Behavioral Health Services in Charlotte, N.C., and John Hollinsworth, senior vice president at Universal Health Services, Inc. in Louisville, Ky., joined the Board as members through 2021. Register Now for the 2019 NABH Annual Meeting If you haven’t done so yet, […]
CMS Requests Feedback on Conflict of Interest at Accrediting Organizations The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week requested public comment about the appropriateness of some Medicare-approved accrediting organizations (AO) offering fee-based consultative services to providers and suppliers they also accredit as part of their business model. “CMS is seeking to receive stakeholder input which can help us determine whether the AO practices of consulting with the same facilities which they accredit could create actual or perceived conflicts of interest between the accreditation and consultative functions of the AO,” the agency said in its announcement, adding that it will consider the information it receives to help with future rulemaking.   CMS Features FAQ on Price Transparency Provision in IPPS CMS has released two FAQ (here and here) documents on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirement that all hospitals establish, update, and publish publicly online a list of the hospital’s “standard charges” for services the hospital provides. CMS included this ACA provision—which becomes effective Jan. 1, 2019—in its final FY 2019 inpatient prospective payment system (IPPS) rule. The final rule did not provide a definition of “standard charge,” but CMS noted that hospitals can make public a chargemaster “or another form of the hospital’s choice.” CMS also said the form must be in a “machine-readable” format and added that PDF documents are not considered permissible under that definition.   NIDA Highlights Details for National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has posted information about National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week, a national health observance from Jan. 22–27, 2019 that will link teens to science-based facts about drugs. NIDA’s website features details about hosting an event, as well as an online teaching guide, free materials, toolkits, and more. World Congress to Host Opioid Management Summit in February World Congress—which hosts conferences and events in healthcare, life sciences, and pharmaceuticals—will host its third annual Opioid Management Summit at the Wink Hotel in Washington, D.C. from February 26-27, 2019. Sarah A. Wattenberg, NABH’s director of quality and addiction services, will moderate a panel discussion titled Ensure Resources and an Integrated Care Continuum Support Treatment and Recovery on the second day of the conference. Click here to learn more and register for the meeting.   NABH Introduces 2019 Online Membership Directory This week NABH posted the digital edition of the 2019 NABH Membership Directory, which presents essential information about our members in an interactive format for the first time. Please click here to access the online directory. NABH will send the printed version of the 2019 NABH Membership Directory to members in January.   Register Now for the 2019 NABH Annual Meeting If you haven’t done so yet, please visit NABH’s Annual Meeting homepage today to register and reserve your hotel room for the 2019 NABH Annual Meeting — Behavioral Healthcare: Improving Coordination, Collaboration, Integration. This week NABH sent the first in a series of NABH Annual Meeting Alerts to keep meeting attendees informed about the latest speaker and programming information. In early January, NABH will post the 2019 Annual Meeting preliminary program on the NABH website. […]
HRSA Releases Behavioral Health Workforce Projections About 276,400 people are expected to enter the behavioral health workforce during the five-year period between 2016 and 2021, HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) estimates in a new analysis. The findings are part of HRSA’s Behavioral Health Workforce Projections that the agency compiled following a mandate from the 21st Century Cures Act. In the analysis, HRSA provides national-level workforce estimates for the following occupations between 2016 and 2030: addiction counselors, marriage and family therapists, mental health and school counselors, psychiatric technicians and psychiatric aides, psychiatric nurse practitioners and psychiatric physician assistants, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. According to a 2017 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly one in five adults in the United States—or about 44.7 million people—suffered from a mental illness in the last year, and in 2016 about 28.6 million people aged 12 and older used an illicit drug in the past 30 days. “Beyond the direct toll on individuals and families,” HRSA noted on its website, “mental illness and substance use disorders are well-established drivers of disability, mortality, and healthcare costs.” The HRSA analysis also included state-level behavioral health workforce estimates.   PwC Health Research Institute Previews Top Health Industry Issues for 2019 In its annual forecast, PwC Health Research Institute predicts that providers and payers that have served Medicaid patients will have a significant effect on the healthcare industry in the New Year. “In 2019 the health industry will see value lines created by innovative providers and payers that have figured out how to subsist—comfortably, thank you very much—by serving almost entirely Medicaid or cash-strapped patients,” the report noted. PwC’s 54-page analysis—The New Health Economy Comes of Age—also predicts that life sciences companies will market digital therapeutics and connected devices targeting atrial fibrillation, hemophilia, substance abuse, birth control, depression, diabetes, epilepsy and other conditions. “Once thought to operate outside the greater U.S. economy, the industry—with its byzantine payment system, complicated regulatory barriers and reliance on face-to-face interactions—is being disrupted,” the report noted. “Finally, there’s robust evidence that what PwC calls the New Health Economy is kicking into gear.” According to PwC’s analysis, 84 percent of Fortune 50 companies are involved with healthcare, and venture capital funding for digital health startups is projected to top $6.9 billion in 2018, reflecting a 230-percent increase from five years ago. Meanwhile, the report noted that “American consumers have told PwC’s Health Research Institute since 2013 that they’re “eager to embrace more convenient, digitally enabled and affordable care; finally, they’re finding it, with options that resemble the choices they have in other parts of their lives.”   CDC’s NSVR Reports on Drugs Most Frequently Used in Overdoses: 2011-2016 Fentanyl, heroin, hydrocodone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, alprazolam, diazepam, cocaine, and methamphetamine were the 10 most frequently mentioned drugs among drug overdose deaths that noted at least one specific drug between 2011 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Vital Statistics Report (NVSR). Oxycodone ranked first in 2011; heroin during 2012-2015; and fentanyl in 2015. During the study period, cocaine consistently ranked second or […]