Friday, 20 January 2017

The Age of President Trump Dawns: What's the Impact on Behavioral Health?

trump obama ACA

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump vowed that on Day One as president he would “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has resulted in an estimated 20 million people gaining health insurance coverage since 2010. After winning the election, Trump backpedaled a bit, suggesting he may retain parts of the ACA. But his pick for secretary of health and human services, Tom Price, strongly opposes the ACA. Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers continue promising to dismantle President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, which lists mental health and substance abuse treatment as one of 10 “essential benefits” that all private insurers and Medicaid must cover.

The recent passage of the 21st Century Cures Act only adds to uncertainty for those of us working in the behavioral healthcare field. The law expands regulations that mandate parity in mental health and physical health coverage. It requires government health agencies to improve privacy laws so family members can help their loved ones receive treatment, and it expands a grant program for assisted outpatient treatment, or court-ordered care for people with serious mental illness who otherwise might not seek help.

What will actually happen to the ACA and the Cures Act once Trump is inaugurated on January 20 is anyone’s guess. But lots of people have reason to worry. An estimated 29 percent of people whose health insurance is covered through the ACA expansion have a diagnosable mental illness, substance use disorder, or both. Of the 10 million people covered through the ACA Medicaid expansion, an estimated 1.2 million have an addiction disorder.

Change won’t happen overnight, health policy experts and lawmakers say. In fact, repeal of the ACA would take up to three years “to work through the problems” Senate finance committee Chairman Orrin Hatch told Reuters last month.

No doubt about it, though: As federal lawmakers wrangle over the future of the ACA, behavioral healthcare providers may be in for a rough ride. Changes of individual insurance and Medicaid, mandates and incentive programs could affect the way we work. Behavioral healthcare practices, which already deal with complicated billing structures and reporting requirements, face additional confusion.

As with the rollout of the ACA, be prepared for unclear guidelines, mixed messages on regulations, and changing deadlines. But know this: ClinicTracker was there to help you every step of the way then, and we’ll be by your side now.

Leslie Kriegstein, vice president of congressional affairs for the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives, noted right after the election that the ACA and the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act are separate pieces of legislation. That means regulations like Meaningful Use “would be very hard to just ‘turn it off,’” she told Healthcare Informatics.

Although Leslie predicts changes to the ACA “will cause a distraction” for health IT, she’s optimistic that much will remain the same. She notes there is bipartisan support for cybersecurity, a strong digital infrastructure, and increased usage of EHRs. “I don’t see many health IT surprises in this space, as there is a recognition that patients and clinicians alike are empowered with the use of technology,” she said.

No matter what’s thrown our way, ClinicTracker will continue to empower you to use technology to suit your unique needs and make changes as those needs evolve. Our intuitive, robust system is created to help you maximize data, improve interoperability, and share information in a secure, HIPAA-compliant system.

As we’ve seen in the six years the ACA has been in effect, change is one of the few constants in this business. Don’t panic over potential changes to your office workflows. ClinicTracker has your back, just as we always have.

About ClinicTracker

ClinicTracker is a robust, future-proof mental health and substance abuse EHR. Dr. Michael Gordon, a renowned clinical psychologist, and Joshua Gordon, an award-winning software engineer, founded the company in 2000. ClinicTracker EHR’s powerful software empowers your agency to succeed. ClinicTracker will automate all of your clinic routines, boost staff productivity, increase billing efficiency, and provide the tools you need to manage your clinic effectively. While mental health and substance abuse agencies are the most common group of users, foster care agencies, social services, equine assisted therapy programs, university clinics, academic counseling systems, family counseling services, and eating disorder clinics also take advantage of our powerful software.

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