For a variety of reasons, I am being asked much more than ever about the thinking behind various provisions of the Mental Health Services Act when we are writing it in 2003 and how that relates to some of the challenges we now have.
The act still looks like it correctly identified what was needed to fulfill our goals. But many parts of it have not been implemented the way they were envisioned and a lot has changed from what we knew in 2003 when it was written.
Continue reading Mental Health Services Act: Then and Now
Last week the US Senate began hearings on a bipartisan effort to provide greater short-term or moderate term stability to the health benefit exchanges which depend upon federal subsidies to provide affordable health insurance to individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid or employer insurance.
These exchanges also depend upon the mandate that everyone must pay at least part of their health insurance if they have above Medicaid incomes, which is the single part of the Affordable Care Act that Republicans have most strongly campaigned to eliminate. Continue reading Growing Washington bipartisanship on many issues gives hope for healthcare future, but everything is still at risk.
Last week the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act by the narrowest of margins, with all Democrats and 20 Republicans voting no. It succeeded because of amendments to satisfy the so-called “Freedom Caucus” of very conservative Republicans who objected to the bill in March because it left too much of the Affordable Care Act intact.
The key amendment was to allow states to eliminate pre-existing condition protections replacing that with high risk pools that could be subsidized with federal funds.
The focus on pre-existing conditions got all the news media attention and certainly will adversely affect people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders both of which would be considered pre-existing conditions – even if the only treatment was one or two visits to a therapist, or a single prescription for an antidepressant. Continue reading AHCA approved by House. What does its passage mean in California?
Another Attempt to Weaken the Affordable Care Act?
Grassroots advocacy is making a difference.
As widely reported, there is a new version of Trump care/House Republican efforts to weaken the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The changes give states additional freedom to eliminate protections for people with pre-existing health conditions. Anyone who has ever received a prescription for an antidepressant or seen a therapist is considered one of those high risk individuals. The new bill also authorizes elimination of 10 essential benefits. These include behavioral health as well as habilitation and rehabilitation services important to people with behavioral health problems.
All of the Medicaid cuts there were in the original proposal are still there. The changes satisfied the so-called freedom Caucus of extreme conservative Republicans. On the other hand it has strengthened the opposition of so-called moderate Republicans. Here is a brief presentation summarizing the status of this effort and other related possible health policy changes. Note especially the charts on pages three and 13.
When the original bill was considered last month all 14 California Republicans were reported to be in support. Now we have heard that Congressman Jeff Denham from the northern San Joaquin Valley is not supporting the bill. This means that the grassroots efforts of organizations like ours are making a difference. See Sacramento Bee Article.
Unless the bill has been passed by the house before you read this, those of you who provide services in areas represented by Republicans in Congress should redouble your efforts to remind these members of the consequences of cuts in behavioral health services and access to insurance which includes these benefits.
There has never been a time when there’s been so much public attention on how health care systems work. This is the time for all of you to continue to expand your efforts to educate your political leaders and build relationships that will impact policy support beyond this year. These efforts will pay off, even if it doesn’t appear that way in terms of immediate change of position.
Continue reading Another Attempt to Weaken the Affordable Care Act
I have been lobbying since 1977, and with CCCBHA since 1986, and in all of those years there has never been one like 2017. One where Sacramento is totally consumed by what will, or will not, happen in Washington DC and what it might mean.
Our agencies are impacted by what it means for Medicaid, and the state and counties will act with that looming shadow. Immigration policies create threats for many families we serve. For many of us and our staff, we have personal concerns that go beyond any of these specific issues.
These fears and uncertainties are so big that they are now part of every meeting and conversation. What we can do about it must take precedence over everything else. So, all of my blogs this year will start with this subject and my latest thinking. Continue reading A Long Strange Trip – and About to Get Stranger
Proposition 64 (Marijuana Legalization) directs 60% of its funds to “Education, Prevention, Early Intervention and Treatment” for substance use disorders including related services such as mental health for youth and their families.
The measure includes a page or more of detail on how the funds “could” be spent, but from my reading this is the only specific limitation on how it must be spent. Youth is not defined, which leaves that up to the legislature which should define it as primarily ages 12-25 with prevention and early intervention for younger children and the “and their families” including parents.
The estimates on the amount of tax on marijuana sales revenues from this portion of the measure range from $300 million to $800 million – with $500 million as a best guess for the first year (2018-19). We then expect revenues to rise in future years.
This is a very significant level of new funding – nearly as much as the original funding from Proposition 63 of 2004 (The Mental Health Services Act) and more than half as much as the original mental health sub-account of 1991 realignment or behavioral health subaccount of 2011 realignment. Continue reading Proposition 64 Funds Can Close Gaps in Realignment and MHSA Funding and Structure
Wow is this country divided!!! California voters approved four statewide tax extensions or increases and many local property taxes and strengthened the already total Democratic Party control of the legislature while at the same time the majority of states gave Republicans the White House and re-affirmed their control of both houses of Congress.
So what will this mean for community behavioral health care in California?
Continue reading Election Over . . . Now What?
I was fortunate to have two outstanding summer interns from the University of California: Monica Venegas and Deepika Dilip. They produced this report which is now as complete as it is going to get, so it is time to share what they found and provide some explanation.
Since this is not a formal report, but intended only to provide a meaningful snapshot of what information was available, I asked them only to develop information on the 20 largest counties (by population). While this excludes 38 counties it does cover about 95% of the state’s population and behavioral health funding.
Continue reading Shedding Light on County Behavioral Health Finances
County behavioral health revenues continue to rise. Many counties are budgeting for significant spending increases for 2016-17
My summer interns were asked to contact the state’s twenty largest counties (by population) to ascertain behavioral health revenue and spending information for 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. They started by looking online and then contacted county officials to obtain more information. They reported more success in obtaining this information than had previously been experienced by most mental health stakeholder organizations, which had expressed frustration in the lack of readily available information online. The key to their success seems to have been contacting county budget offices instead of behavioral health departments. Continue reading Behavioral Health Revenues Rise – November Ballot Measures of Interest