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Medicaid expanding mental health coverage

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced yesterday that states can soon begin applying for waivers to expand their treatment capacity for serious mental health issues.

The big picture: The waivers will allow states to lift the so-called "IMD exclusion" — a ban on federal Medicaid funding for residential treatment facilities with more than 16 beds. 17 states have already received similar waivers to lift the ban for treatment of substance use disorders, like opioid addiction.

Why it matters: Experts say the IMD exclusion is a big obstacle to treatment for low-income people.

  • In a speech yesterday, HHS Secretary Alex Azar highlighted the effectiveness of the waivers for substance abuse treatment. For example, in Virginia, which received approval for a waiver in 2016, there was a 39% decrease in opioid-related emergency room visits.
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