Medicaid Expansion Could Boost States’ Mental Health Funding
Some mental health advocates say that the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act could provide cash-strapped states with federal funding needed to replenish state-based mental health systems, Stateline/Kaiser Health News reports (Ollove, Stateline/Kaiser Health News, 1/18).
About the Medicaid Expansion
Under the ACA, states have the option of expanding Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes of up to 138% of the federal poverty level. The law's Medicaid expansion provision also would expand coverage to low-income adults who have no children.
Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, currently enrolls nearly eight million beneficiaries (California Healthline, 1/3).
Replenishing Mental Health Systems
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that if every state opted into the expansion, 13 million additional U.S. residents would receive mental health benefits through Medicaid next year, rising to 17 million U.S. residents in 2022.
Joel Miller -- senior director of policy and health care reform at the National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors -- said the Medicaid expansion is "a golden opportunity to shore up the state public mental health systems where they have seen these major cuts in the last 10 years."
So far, 10 Republican governors have opted out of the expansion. However, individuals in those states could benefit from the law's health insurance exchanges, which will be required to offer mental health benefits in policies, according to Stateline/Kaiser Health News.
CBO estimates eight million U.S. residents living without mental health benefits will receive such coverage next year through the exchanges, rising to 22 million U.S. residents in 2022 (Stateline/Kaiser Health News, 1/18).
Senate HELP Committee To Hold Hearing on Mental Health Care
In related news, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on Jan. 24 to examine the state of the U.S. mental health care system, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.
Staffers said the hearing will allow committee members to examine the mental health system's most pressing problems, including increased focus on prevention and early intervention. The heads of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Institutes of Mental Health are slated to testify at the hearing (Viebeck , "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/17).
Republicans Raise Legal Questions on Executive Actions
In other news, Republicans on Wednesday questioned the legality of certain directives outlined in executive actions issued by President Obama aimed at curbing gun violence, CQ Roll Call reports.
Beth Levine, a spokesperson for Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said that Grassley is concerned about the president's memorandum directing CDC to conduct research into gun violence, which the senator says conflicts with statutory language forbidding the agency from using funds to "advocate or promote gun control" that has been included in appropriations bills since 1997.
Grassley also questioned the legality of two directives seeking to clarify health care providers' right to ask patients about gun ownership. In an email, Levine cited a provision in the Affordable Care Act that says the law does not grant the federal government the authority to collect "any information relating to the lawful ownership or possession of a firearm or ammunition."Meanwhile, Donny Ferguson, a spokesperson for Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas), said two directives aimed at increasing information states provide to a federal gun background check system "may violate previous Supreme Court decisions" (Gramlich, CQ Roll Call, 1/17). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.