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URGENT – APA/APAPO LEGISLATIVE ACTION ALERT

Early Saturday morning the Senate voted to pass major tax reform legislation by a vote of 51-49.  Congress is now beginning conference committee work to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions, with a goal of passing a final version of the legislation within days.

The bills include provisions that APA and APAPO strongly oppose because of their adverse effect on both psychologists and consumer access to mental health and substance use treatment.  The Senate bill would repeal the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate and cut Medicare spending by 4% each year for the next ten years, starting with a cut of roughly $25 billion in 2018.  The Congressional Budget Office projects that eliminating the ACA’s requirement that most individuals obtain health insurance would cause average premiums in the individual market to jump 10%, resulting in the loss of coverage for millions of Americans.  The cuts to Medicare are the results of the bill’s increase to the federal deficit, which triggers automatic budget constraints established under the Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (PAYGO).  Continue reading and take action.


NC MEDICAID UPDATE

On November 20, the NC Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) submitted an amendment to the 1115 demonstration waiver application originally submitted in June 2016. This amendment is the next step in the transformation of North Carolina Medicaid and NC Health Choice programs to managed care.  DHHS notes it has worked with stakeholders and experts to refine program design and its implementation approach, including seeking public feedback during dozens of listening sessions held across North Carolina.

NC Amended Section 1115 Demonstration Waiver Application – Nov. 20, 2017

1115 Amended Waiver Application Fact Sheet – Nov. 20, 2017


APA STATEMENT IN RESPONSE TO HOUSE, SENATE TAX BILLS

On Thursday, November 16, APA President Antonio E. Puente, Ph.D., issued the following statement in response to several critical measures in the tax bills making their way through the House and Senate:

“Congress needs to take action to increase health insurance coverage and make coverage more affordable. Repealing the individual mandate would take our country in the wrong direction on both of these goals. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that repealing the mandate will result in 13 million fewer people with health insurance coverage in 2027 than would be the case under current law. While some of these 13 million people may forgo purchasing insurance they do not believe they need, many will become uninsured because average premiums in the individual health insurance market would increase by about 10 percent, pricing needed coverage out of their reach. Strong, stable health insurance markets are vitally important to our members and to the millions of Americans with mental health and substance use disorders.”  Click here for the complete statement.


STATEMENT OF APA PRESIDENT IN RESPONSE TO TEXAS CHURCH SHOOTINGS

APA President Antonio E. Puente, Ph.D., issued the statement below in response to the Texas church shooting on November 5 and President Donald Trump’s assertion the incident was a “mental health problem”:

“The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent. A complex combination of risk factors, including a history of domestic violence, violent misdemeanor crimes, and substance use disorders, increases the likelihood of people using a firearm against themselves or others.

“Firearm prohibitions for these high-risk groups have been shown to reduce gun violence. The suspect in this case, Devin Patrick Kelley, exhibited several of these red flags.”

Click here to read the full statement.


APA ANNUAL SURVEY – STRESS IN AMERICA™: THE STATE OF OUR NATION

On November 1, 2017, APA released the results of its Stress in America survey. As many of you know, the findings of this annual survey are usually released in February. (The survey was fielded in August.) However, upon reviewing the results and seeing how strongly they tied into the current political climate, APA decided that from a news cycle perspective, releasing the outcomes now was appropriate. The full report (PDF file), along with additional information, media coverage, interviews with APA CEO Dr. Arthur Evans and more is available at the Press Room of the Stress in America survey: www.stressinamerica.org.

Highlights from Stress in America: The State of Our Nation include:

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (63 percent) say the future of the nation is a very or somewhat significant source of stress, slightly more than perennial stressors like money (62 percent) and work (61 percent).
  • More than half of Americans (59 percent) said they consider this the lowest point in U.S. history that they can remember – a figure spanning every generation, including those who lived through World War II and Vietnam, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
  • When asked to think about the nation this year, nearly six in 10 adults (59 percent) report that the current social divisiveness causes them stress. A majority of adults from both political parties say the future of the nation is a source of stress, though the number is significantly higher for Democrats (73 percent) than for Republicans (56 percent) and independents (59 percent).

ICD-10-CM CODE CHANGES RELEVANT TO PSYCHOLOGISTS

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released changes to ICD-10-CM codes effective as of October 1, 2017. Changes to some mental, behavioral and neurodevelopmental disorders codes are among 360 new, 142 deleted and 226 revised diagnostic codes for fiscal year 2018.

Most of the changes to mental health codes relate to new specifiers, which occur after the decimal point of the parent code, for substance abuse disorders. Psychologists can now select a specific ICD-10-CM code when a patient is in remission from abuse of a variety of substances, including alcohol, opioids, and cannabis. These specifiers will allow for more accurate diagnostic recording. Continue reading.


APA RESPONSE TO PRESIDENTIAL ORDER ON ACA

APA President Antonio E. Puente, Ph.D. has issued a statement in response to the president’s executive order to allow trade associations and other groups to offer their own health plans. In part Dr. Puente said: “Today, health plans are competing on how efficiently and effectively they provide care, but the president’s executive order, if carried out, would take us backward by letting plans once again compete on how few services they cover and ignore state health insurance protections. We are deeply disappointed that the administration is continuing to try to dismantle our health care system, instead of trying to increase enrollment and stabilize insurance markets.”

Click here to read the full statement.


APA OFFERS RESOURCES FOR COPING WITH MASS SHOOTINGS

The American Psychological Association has released a statement on the Las Vegas shootings and mental health responses to it. It includes advice on how to talk to children as well as a public health approach to gun problems. The statement, including links, can be found here.


APA WELCOMES WITHDRAWAL OF CASSIDY-GRAHAM

American Psychological Association (APA) President Antonio Puente, Ph.D. made the following statement in response to the withdrawal of the Cassidy-Graham bill:

“We are grateful to Senators John McCain, Susan Collins and the others who opposed the Cassidy-Graham health care legislation because of its projected harmful effects on insurance coverage, Medicaid and access to mental health and substance use services. We now ask Congress to take the constructive steps needed to strengthen the health insurance exchanges and increase coverage options.

“Medicaid is more cost-effective than private-sector coverage and is a lifeline for millions of Americans with mental health and substance use disorders and other chronic health conditions.”  Continue reading.


*URGENT* NEED FOR DMH VOLUNTEERS

The Red Cross needs you. Hurricane Irma has already ripped through Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, St. Martin, and the rest of the Caribbean and is now barreling toward a weekend collision with Florida and the Eastern Seaboard.

We are appealing to all Red Cross Disaster Mental Health (DMH) volunteers to please, if possible, make themselves available in Disaster Relief Operations. The Red Cross in our state will need to activate tremendous resources in support of operations here and throughout the Southeast. We will generate these resources even as many of our volunteers are unavailable because they are deployed in Texas for Hurricane Harvey. Beyond responding to the direct effects of Irma, the NC Red Cross will also be opening shelters and taking on other relief operations for the anticipated influx of evacuees from Florida and elsewhere.

We need volunteers to update their availability status immediately. Click here for a tutorial video that walks you through the steps to do so on Volunteer Connection.

NB: The Red Cross can no longer accept applications from DMH volunteers who are not already trained by and registered with the Red Cross. We need more professionals like you to join the Red Cross as DMH volunteers. Please – take the opportunity to prepare for the next Harvey or Irma now by training and registering with the Red Cross.


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