SAVE ACCESS TO MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT–TELL CONGRESS YOU CARE

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) wants to significantly limit access to antidepressant and immunosupressant medication for people subscribing to Medicare Part D. Read today’s post to learn why you should be concerned, and what you can do to support the mental health community by raising our voices in Washington.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed rule that would remove antidepressants and immunosupressants from the protected class status under Medicare Part D and is considering removing antipsychotics from the same status the following year. If CMS adopts its proposal, it would reduce patient access to and the availability of mental health treatment.

Since it went into effect in 2006, Medicare Part D’s protected class structure ensures patients with mental health conditions have access to all or substantially all of the most appropriate medications, protecting them from “fail-first”1 experiences or other appeals processes. In many cases, delays caused by these processes can result in inadequate treatment and potentially tragic outcomes.

We need to ensure that all mental health patients have access to all the medications that they need. It is clear that CMS’ rule will signal a step in the wrong direction and the consequences will be detrimental. According to the World Health Organization, depression is currently the leading cause of disability worldwide. By 2030, it will be the leading global burden of disease.2 In the United States alone, the total direct and indirect cost associated with depression exceeds $83 billion annually.3

Ultimately if CMS’ rule is approved, there will be severe human, economic and societal consequences for not only mental health patients, but for all Americans. We must take action now.

Here’s How You Can Take Action Today

Now, more than ever, the mental health community of patients, families, friends and others need to join together to tell CMS and the Administration how big of a mistake implementing this rule will be for all Americans. Below you’ll find several ways in which you can make your voice heard during CMS’ open comment period, ending March 7, to protect antidepressants, immunosupressants and antipsychotics within Medicare Part D. The clock is ticking!

  1. Make Your Voice Heard by writing to your Member of Congress. Use the sample email letter to inform your member of Congress that the implementation of this proposed rule is a big mistake. Be sure to share any personal experiences and how this rule will impact you or a loved one.
  2. Share your personal stories: The Care For Your Mind blog is interested in your personal stories to help share the extent of the issue and how it will impact you or a loved one. While this rule is expected to decrease patient costs for medications, members of the mental health community understand the treatment for our conditions is far from one size fits all. Below are a few questions that may help you shape and share your story:

a. What will happen if you lose access to your medications?
b. Have you had a negative experience with “fail-first” experiences?
c. How will the new rule impact you, your parents, other family members or friends?

We encourage you to submit your personal story here for publication on our website. And in the meantime, join our conversation online by contributing to this blog below. Your voice counts and the time to speak up is now!

Share this information with others: Knowledge is power. The more people know about the proposed rule’s real life consequences, the more we can make our voices heard. Share this post and relevant information with your friends and family, on your social media accounts, through email and word of mouth offline.Together, we can send a powerful message and help ensure that patients have access to the medications they need and deserve.

Here is an action link.

Here is a recent article on this topic

Fixing Illinois’ Fiscal Crisis a Top Priority for Mental Health Advocates

Several years ago, faced with a fiscal crisis, Illinois enacted a “temporary” income tax increase.  That income tax increase will expire (“sunset”) on December 31, 2014 unless the Illinois legislature passes and the Governor signs, legislation to extend it.  If the tax increase is not extended (or some other substantial source of revenue identified) Illinois will be facing a $4 to $5 billion hole in its budget.  While there is certainly some waste in the state’s budget, it is not possible to identify $4-5 billion in cuts which will not result in dramatic reductions in mental health services and all other human services as well as in state funding for schools and other vital government programs.

2014 is an election year for the Governor, most of the Illinois Senate seats and all of the seats in the Illinois House.  Mental health advocates are urged to communicate to all legislators and all legislative candidates in the upcoming primary our support for legislation extending the current state income tax rates.   

One of the problems with the Illinois income tax is that the Illinois Constitution prohibits progressive taxation of any kind.  Thus, millionaires pay the same income tax rate as those making very minimal amounts.  This makes it difficult to raise revenue or even maintain our current tax rates without harming some of our most vulnerable citizens.  The Mental Health Summit supports efforts to place on the Fall Election Ballot an amendment to the Illinois Constitution which would permit the legislature to enact a progressive tax system.  Mental health advocates are urged to communicate to all candidates their support for placing this amendment on the Fall ballot so that all voters can consider this important issue.  Resolutions which would accomplish are pending in both the Senate and the House.  Please urge all Senate candidates to support Senate Joint Resolution  Constitutional Amendment 40 (Harmon).  Please urge all House candidates to support House Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 33 (Jakobsson).

Click here for information about the budget crisis.

Click here for a recent article about the crisis.