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House Bill Would Extend Meaningful Use to Behavioral Health Providers

June 8, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives would give behavioral health and addiction treatment providers the ability to receive Medicaid and Medicare incentive funds for the meaningful use of certified electronic health records (EHRs).

The legislation, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act,” (H.R. 2646) was introduced in the House last week by Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA). The Murphy-sponsored legislation has bipartisan support, and is aimed at addressing the mental health crisis nationwide where 60 million people experience mental illness in a given year. Co-sponsor of the bill is Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).

Currently, behavioral health provider organizations can qualify for meaningful use incentive funds only through the current definition of eligible professionals, which includes physicians and some nurse practitioners that are affiliated with their facilities. The typical behavioral health organization has a limited number of these professionals compared to psychologists and licensed social workers.

This bill expands Medicaid and Medicare meaningful use incentive funding eligibility to include mental health treatment facilities, psychiatric hospitals and substance abuse treatment facilities. It also expands the types of providers that are eligible for Medicaid and Medicare meaningful use incentives to include clinical psychologists and licensed social workers.

The National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems (NAPHS), an association representing behavioral healthcare organizations and professionals, applauded Rep. Murphy for his leadership in answering the call for action. In a statement, the association said, “We thank Rep. Murphy and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX) and other cosponsors for their support and for demonstrating that achieving overall health of mind and body is a bipartisan goal. The Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act provides specific solutions to some of the most challenging issues we face.”

According to NAPHS, the bill would also:

  • Change Medicaid policy (the "Institutions for Mental Disease" exclusion) that currently prevents adults from accessing short-term, acute care in psychiatric hospitals.  It would also strengthen mental health and addiction parity.
  • Improve care by promoting quality and integration. Health information technology incentives would become available to behavioral health organizations to encourage improved sharing of medical information.
  • Create a new Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to facilitate government-wide coordination and focus on the needs of the most seriously ill.

Healthcare Informatics' sister publication, Behavioral Healthcare, has more coverage of this story.

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