News & Events

Federal Funds Cut for PA Obamacare Support—We Need Your Help!

Recently, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf announced that under Obamacare (the Affordable Care Act or “ACA”) Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate has dropped to its lowest ever at 5.6 percent.

MHAPA’s Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators are part of a larger team effort to help people statewide understand and enroll in insurance coverage. During the last enrollment year, our team’s Navigators, who can assist individuals with behavioral health related insurance needs, reached 2,000 individuals and directly assisted 1,000 individuals with selecting, enrolling in, or re-enrolling in a Marketplace Qualified Healthcare Plan or Medicaid HealthChoices plan. In addition to in-person support, Navigator outreach efforts got the word out about HealthCare.Gov to 6,500 people in 61 counties.

This successful program, which is free of cost to the public, needs your help! Cuts to our funding and a shorter Open Enrollment Period are limiting our ability to reach people this year.

The Trump administration has reduced funding for Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators, leaving us without the resources to reach across the state. Additionally, the administration has narrowed the Open Enrollment period from 12 weeks to six weeks, November 1-December 15, 2017. At a time when our Navigators will need to increase their efforts to help people get coverage, we are losing the financial resources to support their work.

Please consider making a gift to MHAPA to support our Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators outreach and enrollment efforts. Your gift will enable us to reach more people during this short enrollment period.

By giving to our Navigator program, you will help us ensure that adults and children across the state have the coverage they need.

Donate here.

Obamacare in Pennsylvania

See what Health Insurance Navigators have helped make possible:*

  • Before the Affordable Care Act, 10 percent of Pennsylvanians and 16 percent of Americans nationwide went uninsured.
  • Since the ACA’s passage, the national uninsured rate has fallen to 8.6 percent; Pennsylvania’s uninsured rate has dropped to 5.6 percent – the lowest it has ever been.
  • More than 40% of Pennsylvanians – 5.4 million people – have pre-existing conditions and cannot be denied health insurance coverage due to the ACA.
  • Approximately 4.5 million Pennsylvanians no longer have to worry about large bills due to annual or lifetime limits on benefits, and 6.1 million Pennsylvanians benefit from access to free preventive care services.
  • Medicaid serves 2.8 million Pennsylvanians, or 22 percent of the commonwealth’s population. This includes: 1.2 million children; Nearly 250,000 seniors; 565,000 individuals who receive outpatient mental health services; 215,000 individuals relying on substance use disorder treatment.
  • In 2015, Medicaid paid for more than 58,000 births in the commonwealth – nearly
  • 40 percent of Pennsylvania’s total births.
  • The Medicaid expansion of the ACA has resulted in the coverage of more than 715,000 newly eligible Pennsylvanians.

*Source: Acting Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller’s testimony in front of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance

Tell PA Senate HB218 is Bad for PA’s Health

Yesterday, MHAPA joined Deputy Secretary for the Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (OMHSAS) Dr. Dale Adair and other county agencies, providers, and advocates at the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association to discuss the $9 million in cuts to mental health and substance use disorder services proposed in the House Republican budget, HB 218.

MHAPA, like all gathered, oppose HB 218. The proposed budget includes a reduction of $5 million in community mental health county allocations. This cut will jeopardize available funding to serve individuals leaving state hospitals to live in the community with related impact on serving individuals in the forensic unit.

In addition, it includes a $4 million reduction in county behavioral health funding, which would eliminate the amount that was included for treatment costs for 1,200 individuals not eligible for Medical Assistance who are newly able to receive substance use disorder treatment through the Centers of Excellence.

The Senate has not yet voted on a budget bill. Contact your PA Senator and let them know you support budgets that work for the people of Pennsylvania’s health and well-being and that HB 218 is bad for all of us! Contact them today.

Get Loud and Active to Support Medicaid, Oppose Cuts

MHAPA is one of 142 organizations that signed onto PA Health Access Network’s (PHAN) protect Medicaid letter to Senators Toomey and Casey. The letter’s key message:

“Our organizations write to express our strong opposition to legislative proposals, such as the American Health Care Act (AHCA), that would cause millions to lose their health care. In particular, we are deeply troubled by proposals that would undermine state Medicaid programs by capping federal funding on a per capita (or block grant) basis and phase out the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion.”

This letter is just one step in what needs to be an increased and persistent effort over the next few weeks to speak out against AHCA and any proposal that would undermine or eliminate Medicaid. Medicaid is the single largest payer of mental health and addiction treatment services in the country—paying 25 percent of all mental health care and 20 percent of all addiction treatment services. And in a time when opioid addiction is a national public health epidemic we can’t afford to lose Medicaid support.

It is likely that on the Senate will vote on the AHCA, as it is now or as they are amending it to be, by the end of June and before Congress goes on recess in August.

We need all hands on deck to help drive the message to Toomey, in particular, that the AHCA is NOT GOOD for his constituents and that voters across the state need visibility into whatever changes to the bill the Senate is working on.

Act today:

  • Generate constituent calls, letters, and social media contacts: The last thing we want is for target Senators to hear silence on proposed changes to health care! According to some reports, constituent contacts continue to lag compared to earlier in our campaign. Our Senators need to hear a renewed flood of energy from us this week via phone, letters, and social media. Please join in the #MeetMedicaidPA campaign.
  • Ramp up public facing tactics: Now is the time to make some NOISE! We want to keep the narrative against the AHCA as strong as possible. This week starting on June 22nd impacted individuals across the state will hold 24 hour vigils at Senator Toomey’s district offices. Stay tuned for more details. If you would like to offer support and participate in these events please email robin@pahealthaccess.org.
  • Highlight key constituencies: Focusing on vulnerable populations served by Medicaid is one way to leverage our most effective Medicaid messages (see below email and attached for more information.) Whether you choose to host a press conference with speakers from consumer advocacy groups and diverse consumers, organize a call-in day with a focus on people with disabilities or older adults, or work with partner organizations to request meetings with your target Senators, we ask you to continue to activate new voices in support of Medicaid.
  • Share key message on per capita caps: Federal oversight of Medicaid dollars guarantees that the most vulnerable Americans—including children, seniors, and people with disabilities from low-income communities– continue to get the care they need.
  • Advocate with House targets: While the Senate is the highest priority we need to look toward the forthcoming House vote. Congressmen Fitzpatrick, Meehan, Costello and Dent will continue to remain critical votes. This means continuing to reinforce accountability for members’ prior votes and a renewed push to emphasize that constituents remain opposed to the AHCA and its negative effects on individuals and state budgets.

Get on the Bus! June 5th Rally for Mental Health!

May is Mental Health Month, but it’s also the time of year when PA state budget talks begin in earnest. Unfortunately, the PA House recently passed a budget, HB 218, that cuts away from our already underfunded mental health and substance use disorder systems.

HB 218 would reduce behavioral health funds by $9 million, $4 million reducing treatment slots for people with substance use disorder, and $5 million from community-based mental health services. And it’s entirely possible that there could be further cuts, as the state government has already taken steps to freeze programs, consolidate positions, and trim funding. As you know, behavioral health in Pennsylvania has already suffered in Pennsylvania and we cannot suffer any more funding cuts.

That’s why everyone needs to get involved. As people living with mental health conditions, their family members, and friends, you understand that cutting corners when it comes to behavioral health comes with a hefty price tag. Less community treatment options mean longer delays, missed work, isolation from support networks, and more missed opportunities to get people on the road to recovery.

Join the coalition fighting for a fair budget on June 5 at Capitol in Harrisburg. Buses will leave from Norristown and Philadelphia. Seating will be limited so make sure to sign up early in order to reserve your place, as the event is only two weeks away.

Sign up here!

Urge NO on HB 1233

MHAPA joins other mental health advocates in opposing HB 1233, Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT), as currently drafted. The bill proposes changes to PA’s involuntary outpatient treatment or mandatory outpatient treatment—which is community-based outpatient treatment ordered by the court for people with severe mental illness who meet specific legal criteria. The bill, as written, lacks major considerations for making AOT fair, effective, and legally responsible.

We have met with the group behind the bill to address our concerns, offering input and amendments that would ensure fair treatment and due process to people targeted by the bills. We were told our major, critical changes would not be included.

On Wednesday, the PA House Health and Human Services Committee meets to consider HB 1233. Act today: call members of the Committee and urge them to vote NO on the bill. The Committee list is here, with links to contact information for all members.  

Our main concerns with the bill’s provisions as currently drafted are:

Funding:  If AOT is introduced, the community-based services associated with it must be funded yet the bill does not address funding for anything beyond the costs associated with the court process. The services outlined in the bill are not currently available in every county. It will require additional state funds to provide the services necessary to support people subject to AOT. Further, the idea that the only funding involved is the amount to support the court process suggests a lack of understanding about the meaning of assisted outpatient treatment. The purpose of the bill should be to obtain mental health services for individuals, not simply to bring someone before the court.

Targeted Outreach: The bill lacks any Targeted Outreach. A Targeted Outreach Program would allow professionals to continuously engage with people to try to bring them into services voluntarily. Ultimately treatment works best when people come into the services voluntarily. Targeted outreach is a critical step if AOT must be introduced.

Look Back Period and Future Predictions:  We have significant concerns about the four year look back period which is included in the bill. Events of four years ago should not be a consideration when determining if a person currently needs treatment. Similarly, it is important to limit future harm predictions to a reasonable time period.

Monitoring and Due Process: The bill does not ensure monitoring and due process. When a person is committed and a treatment plan is in place, the person must receive the needed services. Monitoring must take place to assure that providers are identified and the services are delivered. If the services are not delivered, the person must have legal recourse.

HB 1233 takes away an individual’s Constitutional rights with no assurance that they will receive the needed services. Contact PA House and Human Services Committee members today to urge a NO vote on Wednesday.

 

We’re Hiring: External Advocate

Position:

External Advocate

Position Summary:

External Advocate is an independent advocate who provides assistance and support to individuals receiving services at a state operated mental health facility. The open position is located at Wernersville State Hospital, Wernersville, PA. Position entails the following responsibilities:

  • Ensure the fundamental rights of the individual receiving services in the state operated facility.
  • Help individuals and their families with questions, concerns, and complaints regarding hospital care and treatment.
  • Help resolve concerns and complaints.
  • Work with individuals and others, including local/regional mental health offices and county providers, to facilitate community living.
  • Refer individuals to an attorney or agency that provides legal advocacy.
  • Assist with questions about benefit programs and concerns regarding employment.
  • Provide technical assistance and education regarding rights to individuals, their families and the hospital staff.

The position is full time but two individuals sharing the position and responsibilities would also be considered.

Qualifications:

Ideal candidate will have advocacy experience, knowledge about the PA mental health system, reporting, organizational and data entry skills. A college degree or a combination of education and experience is required. We are an affirmative action employer—individuals of color, women and individuals with lived experience are encouraged to apply.

Apply:

Please email resume and salary requirements by June 19, 2017 to:

External Advocate Search (subject line)
externaladvocacy@mhapa.org

Or mail to:
External Advocate Search
MHAPA
4105 Derry Street, Lower Level
Harrisburg, PA 17111

PA House Bill 218 Is No Good for Mental Health

Secretaries Ted Dallas, Karen Murphy, Teresa Osborne, and Jennifer Smith have issued a clear and compelling letter to the Chairs of the PA House and Senate Appropriations Committee about how PA House Bill 218 will have a devastating impact on vulnerable Pennsylvanians if passed as is. The PA House has passed the bill and it now goes to the PA Senate. Read the full letter here.

MHAPA joins the Secretaries in their opposition to specific provisions, including:

$9 million in cuts to mental health and substance use disorder funding. As detailed in the letter, these cuts would mean that more Pennsylvanians would be institutionalized instead of served in the community and that over 1,200 Pennsylvanians would not be able to access treatment for a substance use disorder. Specifically, the House budget includes a reduction of $5 million in community mental health county allocations. This cut will jeopardize available funding to serve individuals leaving state hospitals to live in the community, which could impact the funding necessary for the closure of the Norristown civil unit, with related impact on the ACLU forensic lawsuit. In addition, there is a reduction of $4 million to county behavioral health funding, which would eliminate the amount that was included for treatment costs for 1,200 non-Medical Assistance eligible clients who are newly able to receive the substance use disorder treatment through the Centers of Excellence. At a time when the Commonwealth is experiencing an unprecedented opioid epidemic, this is a dangerous step backward.

Join us in speaking out against House Bill 218! Let your state senators know how these cuts will affect people you love or serve. Contact them today!

 

Take Action to Save Health Care Today!

News from Washington D.C. is that the Republicans have a deal with enough Freedom Caucus members to bring the Trumpcare bill, with the MacArthur Amendment (view amendment here),  to the House floor for a vote. Please call your representatives today!  Call 1-888-852-0653 to be connected to your representative.

Below are some talking points for when you call from the PA Health Access Network:

THE NEW VERSION OF THE ACHA EXEMPTS MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND THEIR STAFF FROM THE HARMFUL EFFECTS OF THE BILL. They are a “protected group”. You can read more about that at Vox.com but the bottom line is this: “the Republican amendment includes the members of Congress and their staff as a protected group who cannot be affected by this amendment.”

PEOPLE WITH PRE-EXISTING CONDITIONS WILL BE SUBJECT TO SKYROCKETING PREMIUMS 

Pennsylvania consumers would be hit particularly hard if pre-existing condition protections are eliminated.

  • Women with breast cancer would pay an additional $32,740
  • People with diabetes would pay an additional $6,390
  • People with asthma would pay an additional $4,950
  • For Pennsylvanian’s these surcharges are roughly sixteen percent higher than the national average. This means the wallets of 5.3 million non-elderly Pennsylvanians would be hit hard.
  • Under this new plan, the average cost of insurance in Pennsylvania would increase by $3,805, and these surcharges for pre-existing conditions would simply drain more money from hard-working Pennsylvanians.

ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS CAN BE ELIMINATED 

The MacArthur amendment allows states to waive the essential health benefits – the 10 required kinds of care that all plans must offer. This includes important coverage like pharmacy benefits, prenatal and maternal care, and treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.

IF ESSENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS ARE ELIMINATED, LIFETIME CAPS AND ANNUAL LIMITS WILL RETURN— even for people who get their insurance through their employer.

Medical bills add up fast in America. Chronic disease treatment can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Treatment for traumatic injuries, like those resulting from a car accident, can reach $1 Million in costs in a matter of months.

Lifting the essential health benefits returns 4.9 million Pennsylvanians – most of whom are covered by employer sponsored coverage – to a time where they are one illness away from medical bankruptcy.

FOR OLDER PENNSYLVANIANS, THE STORY IS WORSE 

The proposed American Health Care Act allows states to charge older individuals at least five times more for coverage, and this new amendment includes language that allows states to go above that five times more starting point.

In addition to being hit with the surcharges for pre-existing conditions, a 60-year old making $22,000 a year would see their net premiums rise by $9,271 under this proposed legislation.

Applications Now Open: 2017 Glenn Koons Certified Peer Specialist Scholarship

The Pennsylvania Mental Health Consumers’ Association (PMHCA) and the Mental Health Association in Pennsylvania (MHAPA) are now accepting applications for the 2017 Glenn Koons Scholarship.

Glenn, a well-respected Certified Peer Specialist (CPS), guided many people through mental health recovery before his untimely death in 2011. He brought hope and smiles to everyone he encountered. The scholarship honors his life and work by supporting others who want to provide peer support.

Each year, we award the $1,000 scholarship to a promising Pennsylvania candidate for CPS training who demonstrates the ability to engage people, share life experiences in recovery, provide leadership, and teach others these skills. Read about past recipients here.

Apply

To apply for the 2017 scholarship, complete the application online or complete one and mail it to the address on the application. The deadline for submitting applications is May 15, 2017.

Give

PMHCA and MHAPA rely on the financial support of individuals and organizations to make this annual scholarship possible. This year, please consider a gift. Your support will enable us continue this tribute to a wonderful person, who guided the recovery of so many. And by giving to the scholarship, you’re helping to make a meaningful and lasting impact on the lives of people in mental health recovery.

Click here to give.

Learn More

If you have questions, please contact the PMHCA office at 1-800-887-6422, 1-717-564-4930, or pmhca@pmhca.org.

Possible ACA Vote This Week—Act Now!

President Trump and House Republicans are reviving attempts to repeal the ACA and destroy Medicaid

Unfortunately, new conversations between the president and House Freedom Caucus have resurrected the American Health Care Act (AHCA) and the House may try to push a vote through before FRIDAY, APRIL 7! The new negotiations keep all of the provisions regarding Medicaid. But in addition, it now would allow states to eliminate key protections of the ACA. For example, states could decide that insurance companies no longer have to cover essential health benefits (prescription drugs, doctor visits or maternity care) and that states can charge  people with pre-existing conditions as much as they want. The New York Times wrote: “… the proposed changes would effectively cast the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions provision aside.”

HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT THE LATEST REPUBLICAN PLAN:

  • Keeps all the devastating cuts to Medicaid—cuts up to $880 billion over 10 years and imposes a per capita cap or block grant on Medicaid.
  • Allows insurance corporations to charge people with pre-existing conditions whatever they want. The proposal guts the protection against health insurers hiking premiums for people with pre-existing conditions by repealing the “community rating” provision.
  • Provides barebones insurance that doesn’t require any coverage. Allows states to waive essential health benefit requirements so insurers wouldn’t have to cover hospitals, doctors, prescriptions, lab tests, mental health, maternity and newborn care, and care for substance use disorders.
  • Allows insurance companies to cap how much they pay for care. Eliminating essential health benefits (EHBs) also eliminates the prohibition on health insurance companies putting annual or lifetime limits on how much they pay for care because those are linked to EHBs.
  • Higher Premiums for People Who Actually Need Health Care: Health insurance companies will sell barebones plans which leave off basic coverage at a low price and hike the prices of coverage that covers care people actually need, with the biggest hikes for people who have had any medical care.
  • Keeps the provisions that raise premiums for older individuals, lower tax credits, eliminate cost-sharing reductions, and more.

ACT NOW: Call your Representative and tell them to reject this latest effort to repeal the ACA and destroy Medicaid. Here’s a call tool or use the following numbers. English: 866-426-2631; Spanish: 877-736-7831 (only Republican members).

ASK:  Do not take away our care. Do not gut protections for people with pre-existing conditions. Stop trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act and destroy Medicaid.

ALSO: Congress will be in recess during the next two weeks. Please check out Resistance Recess to join events to tell members of Congress to stop trying to yank health care coverage from vulnerable people.