Congressman David Camp (R-MI), current chair of the powerful House Committee on Ways and Means has become the latest of a long line of veteran lawmakers retiring from Congress. In making the announcement Camp said, “Serving in Congress is the great honor of my professional life. I am deeply grateful to the people of the 4th Congressional District for placing their trust in me. Over the years, their unwavering support has been a source of strength, purpose and inspiration.” Under House Republican rules, Camp would likely have lost the chairmanship of the committee due to a self-impose 6 year limit.
Camp joins his counterpart, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) who left his role as Chair of the Senate Finance Committee earlier this year. Other veteran retirements include those of Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA), Congressman George Miller (D-CA) and Senator John Dingell (D-MI), all champions of either child welfare or health care through their careers.
Today the White House hosted a national conference on mental health. In his opening remarks, President Obama took a moment to thank everyone in attendance as well as the folks across the country who work on behalf of those suffering from mental illness. He said the main goal of the conference was not to start a conversation about mental health but to elevate that conversation to a national level and to bring mental illness out of the shadows. The President talked about mental health parity and acknowledged former Representative Patrick Kennedy and his colleagues who worked tirelessly to ensure that individuals have access to mental health coverage that is comparable to what is offered for physical health. Unfortunately, as he noted, many individuals still do not have access to much needed treatment. He called on the country to do more to recognize the early signs of mental illness. President Obama concluded his remarks by offering a plea for individuals suffering from mental health to seek help. He assured them that they are not alone, and encouraged Americans to help those in need heal and thrive.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius moderated the morning panel which focused on addressing the stigma surrounding mental health and ways to break down the barriers that are preventing far too many people from seeking the help they need. The panel consisted of individuals with personal connections to mental illness.
The next panel was led by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and consisted of presentations by experts and organizations that have been successful in using creative ideas to address mental health. The presentations also highlighted techniques that can be used to reduce mental health stigma and help the millions of Americans struggling with mental health problems recognize the importance of reaching out for help.
Vice President Joe Biden delivered the closing remarks for today’s conference. He reiterated themes that had been discussed throughout the day and also made a plea for those suffering to not be ashamed of their condition but to know that help is available.
In a letter addressed to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 10 House Democrats claim that HHS has imposed a state residency requirement in a proposed rule that would extend Medicaid eligibility to foster children between the ages of 18 and 26 that was not the congressional intent of the law. The lawmakers say that the intent of the law was to ensure that any young person who had been in foster care on their 18th birthday and was enrolled in Medicaid, would be able to enroll in Medicaid up until age 26, starting in January 2014. The letter, spearheaded by Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA) and Karen Bass (D-CA) goes on to clarify that the provision in the Affordable Care Act which expands Medicaid eligibility for former foster youth was intended to provide coverage similar to that provided for young adults who are eligible for health care coverage under their parents’ health insurance plans. The latter provision, the letter argues, includes no residency requirement and therefore no specific state residential requirement should be imposed on foster youth within the Medicaid program. In closing, the letter urges HHS to issue a final rule that not only provides states with the option of extending Medicaid, but ensures that states provide Medicaid benefits to age 26 for all eligible former foster youth residing within the state.
CWLA has also submitted comments to HHS urging them to require states to expand Medicaid coverage for all foster youth, not just those residing in the same state in which they were in care upon age 18 (or age of emancipation in respective jurisdiction).
Six members of the Energy and Commerce Committee, including Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to request information on the current and past efforts by federal agencies, particular those of HHS, to assess and improve upon the mental health system in response to recent tragedies. Last month, Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO) announced that they would look into a range of federal programs and resources targeting mental health research and care. In addition, they plan to draw feedback from the nation’s leading experts on mental health and illness as part of the ongoing national dialogue on violence, guns, and mental illness.
The letter is part of the panel’s ongoing efforts to gain a better understanding of societal factors contributing to and potential causes of outbreaks of violence. Acknowledging that a national discussion on mental health that addresses the negative perceptions of mental illness as an important first step, the letter highlights some key facts about mental illness: mainly that individuals with mental illness are more likely to be the victims of violent crime than perpetrators. The letter also reviews some of the steps that were taken immediately following the tragic events at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech University to prevent future tragedies. In order to determine the effectiveness of those efforts and others, the Committee has requested that HHS follow up on a number of recommendations submitted by the Committee.