AMHCA Advocacy Update: October 20, 2015
NDAA/TRICARE Bill Awaits President's Decision
In spite of a renewed Presidential veto threat, this week Congress will forward to the White House the National Defense Authorization Act of 2016 (NDAA). The annual Department of Defense policy bill authorizes military pay and benefits, including making modifications to the TRICARE program. The enormous bill has been entangled for months in a larger battle over defense and domestic spending levels, and it remains uncertain when the President will sign it, although his approval is expected before the end of the year. AMHCA is focused on one provision that will temporally expand TRICARE’s August 18, 2014, rule for Certified Mental Health Counselors (CMHCs).
The final bill language, which is expected to become law, extends TRICARE independent practitioner status to a broader group of state licensed counselors than originally included in the 2014 rule. The compromise language adopted in the final bill recognizes graduates with masters or doctoral counseling degrees from CACREP accredited programs in addition to masters or doctoral counseling degrees from programs accredited by 10 more agencies. Graduates from any of the TRICARE recognized programs would be eligible for TRICARE independent practice.
Pressure Upped for Mental Health Reform and Medicare Inclusion
Congressional momentum is continuing to build for legislation to respond to mass gun shootings now regularly at the top of the national news. Congress is particularly concerned about any relationship between mass gun violence and what most see as a broken mental health system. Many feel increasing political pressure to pass a reform bill that responds to mass gun violence without addressing any new restrictions on access to firearms. Behind the scenes, movement is accelerating behind a number of mental health reform bills. Unfortunately, many fiscal conservatives have expressed little willingness to expand community-based services such as AMHCA’s Medicare provider status amendment or the expansion of Medicaid coverage to more individuals. AMHCA and our coalition partners are meeting behind the scenes with congressional offices on the issues and are continuing to urge inclusion of our Medicare provider status legislation.
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