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Legislative Update
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AMHCA Soldiers on Despite Congressional Disarray

By James Finley, Associate Executive Director and Director of Public Policy

Congress is currently experiencing great disarray over legislation to fund ongoing government operations, raise the debt ceiling, and halt implementation of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. 


Given the difficulties and polarization over these major issues, the legislation on Medicare physician payment reform has stalled for the moment. This Medicare legislation would gradually phase down reliance on Medicare Part B’s fee-for-service payment model. Since this is likely to be the only Medicare bill considered this year, AMHCA and its coalition partners hope to attach our Medicare provider status bill (S.562) to the Senate version of the Medicare physician payment legislation. 

AMHCA now expects the Senate to begin consideration of Medicare legislation after resolving the current funding disputes. At that point we hope to have our bill attached in the Finance Committee. An alternative pathway for Medicare legislation could become the debt ceiling legislation, if this dispute drags further into the fall. Whatever the legislative path, AMHCA needs its members to follow our Medicare provider status legislation and voice their support for this key measure. Use the action alert for our grassroots members

Healthcare Reform

The nation begins enrolling millions of uninsured Americans under the Affordable Care Act on Oct. 1, and the Obama administration is scurrying to put in place resources to assist in this enormous undertaking. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is doing its part and recently released a toolkit for mental health providers

The toolkit provides a variety of resources and materials about the law and how providers may assist uninsured consumers in getting informed about the law and enrolled. 

Resources in the SAMHSA toolkit include articles, brochures, fact sheets, presentations, videos, posters, cards, and outreach messages. Many of the materials are available in multiple languages and customized for specific population groups. AMHCA encourages its members with questions and concerns view these resources. 

To Improve Veterans’ Mental Health Services

AMHCA is lobbying for S.1155, our legislation providing paid internships for mental health counselors and marriage and family therapists within the Department of Veterans Affairs. We continue to receive a lot of support from House and Senate Congressional offices on this legislation, and we are optimistic that it may be enacted.

HIPAA Compliance Deadline

Lastly, AMHCA members should be aware that virtually all healthcare providers in the country reached new HIPAA compliance deadlines on Sept. 23. A Privacy Rule Primer is offered to the public by the American Psychological Association’s Practice Organization, and AMHCA members are encouraged to review it to understand the new requirements. 

In addition, federal resources on the new requirements are available for review. Be aware, however, that federal HIPAA resources may be out of date; key rule changes did not appear until January 2013. 

For the latest information on all of our congressional activities, follow our updates on AMHCA’s Facebook or our Public Policy web page.