By Peter Sullivan
November 16, 2015
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) says he is pushing a mental health bill from Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) as a response to gun violence. Ryan was asked in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” in an unaired segment posted on the network’s website, whether he would propose any gun legislation.
“I haven’t thought of proposing gun legislation, I think the big problem we have is enforcing the law as we have on the books right now,” Ryan said.
He then pivoted to mental health.
“The other issue that I think we need to take a look at, and I’m pushing this in the Commerce committee, is Congressman Murphy’s legislation on mental health,” Ryan said. “I think we need to improve our mental health laws so we can address these problems before they get out of control, because mental health is a component to a lot of these shootings that, I think, we have not looked at seriously enough.”
Murphy’s bill, which would overhaul the system for treating seriously mentally ill people, was cast as the Republican response to the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting when the measure was first introduced in 2013.
The controversial and often-delayed measure is now starting to move forward, with the House Energy and Commerce health subcommittee advancing the measure earlier this month.
Ryan’s positive comments give the legislation a boost.
Still, the bill faces the question of cost. The measure would undo restrictions preventing Medicaid from paying for physical and mental healthcare on the same day and from paying for care at certain mental health facilities.
Those provisions could cost billions of dollars. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) noted the new Medicaid spending this month and said he would have to speak to Ryan to gauge his reaction to it.
The full committee session to consider the bill has not been scheduled yet.
Democrats on the committee are also hoping there can be negotiations to make the measure more bipartisan in the time before that session.
One of the most controversial parts of the bill gives a 2-percent increase in federal grants to states with what are known as assisted outpatient treatment (AOT) laws allowing judges to mandate treatment for patients with serious mental illness.
Democrats have raised concerns with bringing the court system into care for the mentally ill.
Another controversial area is its changes to a health privacy law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. The changes are aimed at allowing caregivers and family members to have more information about a mentally ill person’s care.
Democrats warn that the changes would lower privacy protections for mentally ill people.