Here’s an update on where we are this week with some of the bills we’ve been watching.
HB2 Medicaid Provider Rate Increases Near Benchmark!
The Governor’s budget recommended increasing behavioral health provider rates at 38% of the Guidehouse study recommendations on an ongoing basis. Another $25M was designated for one-time-only funding for all four sectors of the $2.7M rate study: senior and long term care, developmentally disabled, mental health and substance use disorder programs.
At last week’s Joint Appropriation Committee meetings, Sen. Christopher Pope (D) Bozeman and Mary Caferro (D) Helena, both gave impassioned pleas for fully funding the recommended rates from the study in order to try to provide services for Montana’s most vulnerable. That motion was voted down along party lines with Senators Keenan, Lentz, Glimm, and Rep. Gillette voting against fully funding the recommendations from the $2.7M Governor’s rate study. After much more discussion, provider rates were voted on that brought the bulk of the rates up to between 95% and 99% of the recommended rates! This makes tremendous progress toward our ask of using the rate study to guide rates going forward and we are very appreciative of the committee’s work in this area! You can see the final rates for some of the study areas here: EA Change to Average Rate of Benchmark.
We’ll now pivot to the Senate to see if they can implement at standard cost of living adjustment similar to the one for physicians in Medicaid.
HB 17 Implementation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers (CCBHCs):
This bill was tabled by the House Appropriations Committee on February 15, 2023. CCBHCs across the nation are transforming the failing behavioral health system to a value-based, continuum of care system, similar to the way medical healthcare is paid.
The federal government will be choosing 10 states every two years to implement CCBHCs. Currently the model has been used successfully in 10 states across the nation since 2016. Montana DPHHS has applied for a planning grant from SAMHSA and we will hear if Montana is chosen likely in March 2023. Providers, NAMI MT and other behavioral health advocates, DPHHS, and the Governor’s office will all continue to work to implement this model in Montana.
HB 462 Generally Revising Marijuana Revenue:
BHAM recommended the change to DPPHS of the flat rate of $6M to a percentage of 11%. The recreational marijuana tax was projected at far less than what is coming into the marijuana tax fund. BHAM felt that a percentage would provide more money for mental health and substance use disorder treatment through the Healing and Ending Addiction through Recovery and Treatment (HEART) Fund. This year the change provides an additional $3M to the fund for a total of $9M, up from the original $6M.
It was not our intent that the funding for “20% to the credit of the department of fish, wildlife, and parks to be used solely as funding for wildlife habitat in the same manner as funding generated under 87-1-242(3) and used pursuant to 87-1-209,” be sacrificed for the funding for mental health treatment in the HEART Fund. There is plenty of money to fund both initiatives that are extremely important to the people of Montana. It’s not an either/or; it’s a both/and….
HB 252 Providing Youth Behavioral Health Screening
This important bill did not pass the House on a 56 No to 44 Yes vote. Fortunately, the Governor’s office announced a $2.1M investment in screening youth across Montana amid dire youth suicide numbers.
HB 391 An Act Requiring Cities and Counties to Collect a User Fee on Certain Exempt Property
This bill that would have required certain exempt nonprofits (agencies treating developmentally disabled, mental illness and substance use disorder, senior citizen centers, and other specific human services nonprofits) to pay a tax to be used for public safety and mental illness treatment in their communities was tabled in Taxation Committee.