Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Bipartisan gun deal includes funding for telehealth coverage for Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program

In response to recent violent shootings, the Senate is moving an 80-page bipartisan deal meant to reduce gun violence. One provision, not widely reported, to expand telehealth coverage for patients with Medicaid or Children's Health Insurance Program coverage so more people can access mental health-care, Cara Smith reports for Inside Health Policy.

A maximum of 18 months after the bill becomes law, the Department of Health and Human Services would be required to provide technical assistance and guidance to states to improve telehealth access for Medicaid and CHIP enrollees. "The guidance would address adopting telehealth flexibilities to expand access to care, billing codes and practices, integrating telehealth services into value-based care models, strategies to deliver culturally competent care via telehealth and other best practices," Smith reports. The language in that part of the bill is identical to that of legislation released in May by the Senate Finance Committee.

"Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., the lead Democratic negotiator, is hailing the bill as the biggest breakthrough on the issue of gun violence in 30 years and predicted Tuesday it would save lives," Alexander Bolton reports for The Hill. "Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the head Republican in the talks, says the legislation will take guns out of the hands of people who are dangerous or break the law but won’t affect the gun rights of law-abiding citizens."

Here are some other provisions in the bill:

  • Enhanced background checks for gun buyers under 21, to search juvenile criminal records. This provision would expire in 2032, so a future Congress would have to vote to extend it.
  • Expand a grant program that allows states to use federal funding to implement crisis-intervention programs to reduce gun violence. States could use the money to support "red flag" laws to take guns away from people deemed a danger to themselves or others but would not be required to have such laws, a key Republican point at the end of negotiations.
  • Close the "boyfriend loophole," meaning a person convicted of misdemeanor violence against a recent dating partner would lose the right to buy or possess a firearm for at least five years.
  • Require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to provide states with resources to expand mental-health programs in schools.
  • Expand Medicaid funding for certified community behavioral health clinics, allowing up to 10 new states to opt into the program every 10 years.
  • Establish a new, specific criminal offense for gun traffickers and straw purchasers with tougher penalties.

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