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 Legislative & Policy Corner

AMCHP Pushes for Zika Preparedness Funds
On Apr. 5, AMCHP joined with 67 leading maternal and child health and public health organizations leaders in Congress urging "in the strongest terms to immediately provide emergency supplemental funding to prepare for and respond to the Zika virus here in the United States. We also urge that Congress provide new funding rather than repurpose money from other high priority programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies that ensure our health security and public health preparedness."  A copy of the letter is available here. Additionally, AMCHP also included an ask for Zika funds during our annual hill day in conjunction with our recent annual conference.  Any questions can be directed to Brent Ewig at bewig@amchp.org.

Hill Day Follow Up
Thank you to everyone who participated in Hill visits while they were in town for the AMCHP annual conference.  Personal contact with your elected officials and their staff is key to ensuring our messages are being received.  This year advocates urged Congress to fund the Title V MCH Block Grant at $650 million, support an emergency supplemental funding request to address the Zika virus, and join the new Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care.  If you completed a visit and haven't done so already, please be sure to provide feedback via the conference evaluation survey and/or by contacting Amy Haddad directly at ahaddad@amchp.org.

Appropriations Action
Although we still anticipate that Congress will ultimately pass a continuing resolution to fund the government through after the elections, the Appropriations Committees are already hard at work to set the bill writing process in motion!  On April 14 the Senate announced its allocations for each of the subcommittee bills, and the Labor, Health & Human Services, and Education Subcommittee (where the Title V MCH Block Grant is housed) received a slight decrease in funding of 0.16% compared to last year.  Considering the tough overall budget, it is important to note that the allocation could have been much worse, but nonetheless it will be important to continue outreach to Congress to ensure they recognize the value of continued investment in Title V and other programs of importance to the MCH community.  We will continue keeping you informed as the House releases its allocations and the Senate gets to work on writing its bill.

Health Reform Implementation

CMS Releases New Guidance to Improve Access to Long-Active Reversible Contraceptives
On Apr. 10th the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released an Informational Bulletin that describes emerging payment approaches several state Medicaid agencies have used to optimize access and use of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). The bulletin notes that beyond preventing unplanned pregnancies, research indicates that effective contraception helps prevent poor birth spacing, thereby reducing the risk of low-weight and/or premature birth. Access to contraception can also be a major benefit to a woman's overall long-term physical and emotional well-being. By releasing the bulletin, CMS hopes that more states will adopt emerging payment approaches to increase access to this valuable and cost-saving contraceptive method.

CMS Finalizes Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Parity Rule
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized a rule to strengthen access to mental health and substance use services for people with Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage, aligning with protections already required of private health plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell noted, "The Affordable Care Act provided one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation…Today's rule eliminates a barrier to coverage for the millions of Americans who for too long faced a system that treated behavioral health as an unequal priority. It represents a critical step in our effort to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need." The protections set forth in this final rule will benefit the over 23 million people enrolled in Medicaid managed care, Medicaid alternative benefit plans, and CHIP.

Upcoming Webinar From Families USA: The Role of Enrollment Assisters in Public Policy
Insurance navigators and enrollment assisters have important roles to play in educating public officials and advocating on behalf of health care consumers. Families USA is offering a webinar on Thursday, Apr. 28th from 2:00-3:00 PM EST with tips on how to educate public officials and others about the importance of outreach and enrollment in specific communities. This webinar will detail how assisters can use the Public Policy Toolkit for Enrollment Assisters and will feature speakers who have been successful in engaging in advocacy. Register here.