Participation in Highly-Competitive Health Care Innovation Showcase
On the evening of Thursday, March 7, 2019, the House of Representatives’ Health Care Innovation Caucus held a Health Technology Showcase in the Rayburn House Office Building. The Health Care Innovation Caucus was founded in March of 2018 by Congressman Mike Kelly (R-PA), Congressman Ron Kind (D-WI), Congressman Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Congressman Ami Bera, M.D. (D-CA).
When GCS learned of this opportunity, we sprang into action on behalf of our clients. This event provided a fantastic opportunity for some of the leading health technology and innovation-related organizations to showcase their unique contributions to health care innovation for Members of Congress and their staff. Over 110 different companies and organizations applied to be a part of this event, of the 37 chosen, GCS was able to secure two spots for our clients.
Secured Psychosis Experiential Public Art Installation in the Capitol
On behalf of our client, GCS intervened to directly address this stigma on Capitol Hill by bringing a public art installation to the Rayburn House Office Building foyer. GCS worked tirelessly with congressional staff and House security offices in order to facilitate the build-up of this one-of-a-kind interactive experience. GCS secured congressional sponsors, received approval from leadership offices, and organized a scientific legislative staff briefing to amplify the impact of this unique exhibit. GCS also generated a great deal of enthusiasm and press around the events week.
We created an experience that told our client’s story and inspired understanding and empathy. Our participants entered a darkened “room” filled with fog, stepped into “cones of light” and then listened to a diagnosed individual or family member. The majority of those who experienced our exhibit reported that they gained a better understanding of the condition and empathized with the need to address the issue. GCS is proud to have helped Members of Congress and congressional staff gain a motivated understanding of schizophrenia.
Expanding Access to Treatment
The harsh reality in America today is that a small fraction of people who actually need addiction treatment services actually receive any. For much of the past five years, GCS has helped a trade association representing nearly 3,000 Community Mental Health Centers pursue the Excellence in Mental Health and Treatment Expansion Act (HR 3931/S. 1905). The idea behind this new bipartisan program is to expand access to intensive community-based mental health care and substance use treatment services in a way that is both financially sustainable and highly accountable.
Recent local media reports show that the demonstration is reducing opioid overdose deaths in hard hit areas of Upstate New York. At the urging of GCS, the FY 2019 Senate Labor-Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill added $150 million to continue the expansion of this important initiative.
Slowing Rushed Implementation of Electronic Visit Verification
Pursuant to a goal of fraud prevention, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sought to impose an Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) requirement on Medicaid personal care services quickly with limited guidance. GCS advised the trade association representing community-based rehabilitation providers for people with disabilities – on strategy and legislative tactics for how to stop the agency guidance.
Helping this client to marshal its national grass roots network, bipartisan members of the House and Senate introduced legislation (HR 6042/S 2897) within days of the CMS action suspending implementation of the guidance. An EVV one-year delay successfully passed both chambers unanimously within six months of the guidance issuance.
Defended $52M in Funding for PIPBHC Grants
The SAMHSA’s Promoting Integration of Primary and Behavioral Health Care (PIPBHC) grants promote full integration and collaboration in clinical practice between primary and behavioral healthcare. They also aim to help promote services related to screening, diagnosis, prevention and treatment of mental and substance use disorders, as well as related physical conditions and chronic diseases.
While the funding for the PIPBHC grant program was set to be zeroed out in FY 2018, GCS successfully secured continued funding for the PIPBHC grant program at $52 million dollars under the Continuing Appropriations Act, 2018.
Blocked Affordable Care Act Repeal Efforts
When the 115th Congress took up efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, GCS worked to protect consumer guard rails in alternate plans, including essential health benefits (EHBs) for mental health, substance abuse, and disabilities through direct lobbying, social media engagement, and grassroots and grasstops efforts. These efforts were ultimately unsuccessful, and EHB protections remained intact.
Enforced MHPAEA Regulations through White House Opioid Commission Interim Report
The White House Opioid Commission released its interim report which included a provision on enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), including a standardized parity compliance tool to ensure health plans cannot impose less favorable benefits for mental health and substance use diagnoses than physical health diagnoses. GCS secured the inclusion of recommendations for 42 CFR Part 2, which originally intended to afford an extra layer of privacy protections for individuals with history of substance abuse but resulted in complicating comprehensive treatment of the individual.
Enhancing Behavioral Health Information Technology
On behalf of our electronic health record vendor client, our firm has been seeking to generate Health Information Technology (HIT) financial incentives for psychiatric hospitals, social workers and residential treatment facilities. GCS employed an inventive legislative approach authorizing a health IT demonstration through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). This move eliminated the budget score for the proposal which, in turn, helped to build bipartisan support for the legislation – bridging the divide between the parties on this fraught topic. In fact, during congressional opioid deliberations, both chambers passed their respective versions of the Improving Access to Behavioral Health Information Technology Act (S. 1732/HR 3331) unanimously. It was included in the final SUPPORT Act for Patients and Communities and has been signed into law by President Trump.
Battle to Modernize Antiquated Addiction Privacy Law
Since 2014, GCS has been advising an electronic health record vendor on legislative and regulatory approaches to amend a 45-year-old addiction privacy statute that is making it virtually impossible to coordinate care for people battling drug addiction. To achieve change for our client we needed a creative strategy and an innovative approach.
First, we partnered with hospital systems and managed care companies that are struggling with the Nixon-era addiction privacy law. Next, GCS played a key role in founding a coalition spanning patient advocacy organizations, prominent substance abuse providers accreditation bodies and pharmaceutical companies to support House and Senate legislation. Finally, GCS helped to locate bipartisan co-sponsors in both chambers while advising on the crafting of improved patient protections.
The House passed the Mullin/Blumenauer Overdose Prevention and Patient Safety Act (HR 6082) in late June with more than 350 votes, including the leadership of both parties and a majority of the Congressional Black Caucus. GCS is now working with the Senate in lame duck to get this legislation through.
Capitol Hill Days for Advocates and Executives
>>Guide Consulting Services organized numerous Capitol Hill Days for advocates and executives, resulting in over 60 bipartisan Congressional and Senate legislative co-sponsors per event
- Work directly with your team to individually customize activities to enhance your legislative agenda
- Craft concise and calculated advocacy message
- Train Advocates and Executives on messaging and meeting strategy
- Schedule meetings with advocates/executives’ Congressional Staff/Members
- Secure no-to-low cost venues on Capitol Hill for Message Training
- Develop agendas and meeting-specific talking points
- Manage day-of logistics management, registration, and troubleshooting
- Follow-up with all offices after Hill Day
Excellence in Mental Health Act
>> Won passage of $1.1 billion Excellence in Mental Health Act.
GCS’s client, the National Council for Behavioral Health, sought to improve Medicaid reimbursement for and increasing access to community mental health and substance use treatment services for people with serious mental illnesses.
On March 31, 2014, GCS helped to secure passage of the bipartisan Protecting Access to Medicare Act (H.R. 4302) which included a $1.1 billion dollar state demonstration program based on the Excellence in Mental Health Act.
The Excellence in Mental Health Act increased Americans’ access to Community Behavioral Health Clinics while improving Medicaid reimbursement for community mental health care – with the goal of reducing hospitalizations, nursing home placements, homelessness and incarceration for low-income persons living with conditions like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major clinical depression.
The passage of the legislation was notable because in the 113th Congress, there were few, if any, bills passed into law on any subject matter, much less major new investments in the public mental health system.
Department of Defense’s Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program
>>Eating disorders becomes new topic area for research funding to help our military members and their families, expected $3-$5 million in funding.
For Fiscal Year 2017, Guide Consulting Services led the charge for eating disorders to be eligible for research funding through the Department of Defense’s Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program’s (CDMRP) Peer-Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). Under the PRMRP funding stream, an expected $3-$5 million dollars will become available for eating disorders research specifically designed to help military members and their families affected by the illness.
The CDMRP supports research across the full range of science and medicine, with an underlying goal of enhancing the health and well-being of military servicemembers, veterans, retirees, and their family members. In the United States, 30 million Americans experience a clinically significant eating disorder during their lifetime. Research has shown that there is a higher prevalence rate for eating disorders among military servicemembers than the civilian population.
Passing Historic Eating Disorders Legislation
>> This achievement represented the first time in history that Congress passed eating disorder specific legislation.
The Eating Disorders Coalition hired Guide Consulting Services in early 2015 with the objective of advancing eating disorders specific legislation to help early identify eating disorders and increase access to treatment.
GCS drafted the Anna Westin Act of 2016 (H.R. 2515/S. 1865), secured bipartisan bill sponsorship, led grassroots activism and partnership development, and navigated the legislation from introduction to passage, being signed into law by President Obama on December 13, 2016 with the 21st Century Cures Act.
Department of Labor Overtime Ruling
>> Secured an implementation delay for Medicaid-funded home and community based service workers under the DOL Overtime Rule.
Guide Consulting Services successfully secured an implementation delay for Medicaid-funded home and community based service workers under the recently finalized DOL Overtime Rule. The DOL Overtime Rule increases the salary threshold under which virtually all workers are guaranteed time-and-a-half pay whenever they work more than 40 hours in any given week.
While the wage increase is welcomed by Medicaid-funded home and community based service providers, a Medicaid reimbursement increase will be needed to offset the increase provider compliance costs.
However, the process of Medicaid funding increases can take up to three years for state governments to approve into law. The recent success by Guide Consulting Services provides additional implementation time for Medicaid-funded home and community based providers and state Medicaid agencies to adjust Medicaid funding in order to offset the costs of the new DOL Overtime Rule.
Veterans Mental Healthcare
>> Stopped policies that restricted access to medicine for veterans with severe mental illnesses.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced policies that restricted access to vital medicines for veterans with severe mental illnesses were being drafted.
GCS worked with the Eli Lilly Co. to insert strong language into a VA appropriations bill prohibiting the policies from being implemented. This situation turned in to a high profile political battle that was ultimately covered in the Wall Street Journal.
>> Built a coalition of eight state mental health departments and 30 members to fight mental illness stigma.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) launched the Elimination of Barriers Initiative to fight the stigma associated with mental illnesses.
GCS recruited both the eight state departments of mental health that participated in this public service advertising demonstration program as well as the 30 members of the National-State Partnership Committee, which served as the governing board for the project. The committee reflected a wide cross section of state agencies, consumer groups, and mental health citizens advocacy organizations.
>> Developed a partnership to honor TV and movie writers and producers for sensitive portrayals of mental illness.
The Voice Awards annual program (a SAMHSA initiative) was created in conjunction with the entertainment industry to honor writers and producers for sensitive and strength-based portrayals of mental illnesses on network and cable television as well as major motion pictures.
GCS worked with Vanguard Communications to develop 13 mental health Program Partners for the Los Angeles-based awards program.