House Passes Short-Term Federal Funding, Physician Fee Schedule Summary


“COVID-19 has accelerated and expanded our country’s mental health and substance use disorder crisis. Access to treatment – when and where people need it – remains the biggest challenge we face. Unfortunately, insurers have consistently fought to illegally deny equitable coverage and states have lacked the tools to hold them accountable. No longer.” – Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, on new model state parity legislation.

House Passes Short-Term Federal Funding

This week, the House of Representatives passed a short-term continuing resolution (CR) through December 18 to provide appropriators with additional time to reach a spending agreement for fiscal year (FY) 2021. The CR also includes provisions that would extend several expiring health care policies, including Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). The Senate now has until midnight tonight to vote on the CR to avert a shutdown.

Summary of New 2021 Physician Fee Schedule

Last week, CMS published the final 2021 updates for the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and Quality Payment Program. The National Council submitted comments to CMS in October regarding the CY2021 Physician Fee Schedule and offered support for many of the provisions that were later finalized. The National Council applauds CMS’ efforts to expand a number of telehealth flexibilities to providers and patients and significantly increase access to naloxone. Click here for the National Council’s summary of the new PFS.

HHS Amends PREP Act

HHS issued a fourth amendment to the Declaration under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act (PREP Act) that seeks to increase access to countermeasures — such as telehealth, authorized PPP, and vaccines — against COVID-19. According to HHS, “Many states have already authorized out-of-state healthcare personnel to deliver telehealth services to in-state patients, either generally or in the context of COVID-19; this action will ensure that COVID-19 Covered Countermeasures can be provided via telehealth across state lines.”  This preempts state laws that would prohibit an otherwise qualified person from administering Covered Countermeasures via telehealth.

One Week to Submit Statement of Intent to Delta Center for a Thriving Safety Net

The Delta Center for a Thriving Safety Net is a national initiative supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that brings together behavioral health associations and primary care associations to advance policy and practice change. The National Council’s behavioral health association members are encouraged to apply to receive $240,000 over the course of the 27-month project in collaboration with their primary care association partners. Non-binding statements of intent to apply are due next Friday, December 18 and the full proposal deadline is January 8, 2021. Visit the Delta Center website for more information on the application process, key dates, an informational webinar recording, and FAQs.


How to Build Relationships with New Members of Congress. On Tuesday, December 15, from 1:00-2:00 pm ET, the Congressional Management Foundation will host a webinar to address the following questions: What is it like to set up and work in a freshman congressional office? What are common mistakes that advocates make with new Members? How should advocates adjust their tactics when building relationships with new Members? Register for the webinar today!


The Latest on Pandemic Relief Talks. Leadership officials are continuing their efforts to strike a deal on additional COVID-19 relief that could be added to a potential omnibus spending measure. Officials are expected to continue their negotiations in the coming days ahead with hopes of reaching an agreement.

Key Health Officials Announced. President-elect Joe Biden has officially announced key members of his administration’s health care team, tapping California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to lead the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Dr. Vivek Murthy to be Surgeon General; Dr. Rochelle Walensky to be Director of the CDC; Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith to be Chair of the COVID-19 Equity Task Force; Dr. Anthony Fauci to be Chief Medical Adviser on COVID-19 to the President; Jeff Zients to be Coordinator of the COVID-19 response and Counselor to the President, and; Natalie Quillian to be Deputy Coordinator of the COVID-19 response.

Guest Author

Malka Berro
Policy Associate