New MACPAC Report to Congress: Recommendations to improve mental health access include telehealth

Center for Connected Health Policy

June 2021

Recommended ways to improve access to mental health services for adults, children, and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission (MACPAC) released its June 2021 Report to Congress last week that recommends ways to improve access to mental health services for adults, children, and adolescents enrolled in Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

While the report and recommendations did not evaluate telehealth directly, they did occasionally reference telehealth’s ability to increase access to mental health services and recommend that the promotion of telehealth be included in various programmatic guidance. For instance, the report highlights telehealth programs that connect youth to telehealth counseling services and recommends the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) issue joint guidance addressing how Medicaid and CHIP can be used to fund a behavioral health crisis continuum that includes how telehealth can be used to ensure access to crisis care. They also recommend that opportunities to cover telehealth and other technology-enabled services be described in CMS and SAMHSA guidance specific to children and adolescents with significant mental health conditions.

The report additionally looks at how to promote care integration through electronic health records (EHRs) and value-based payment (VBP) programs, which include measures related to expanded use of telehealth. It also discusses the non-emergency transportation (NEMT) benefit in Medicaid, mentioning that many changes in how the program is administered are occurring which require additional data to assess its value, such as how expanded availability of telehealth services may lessen its need in certain circumstances. For more information, please access the full MACPAC report - https://www.macpac.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/June-2021-Report-to-Congress-on-Medicaid-and-CHIP.pdf