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Capitol Health Call
April 13, 2005

Children’s Mental Health

JAMA. 2005;293(14):1718. doi:10.1001/jama.293.14.1718-d

Some children’s access to mental health services is being threatened by a misinterpretation of Medicaid law, said Sen Susan Collins (R, Maine) and Rep Henry Waxman (D, Calif) in a letter sent March 8 to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

At issue is a new initiative by DHHS Acting Inspector General Dan Levinson who has audited state Medicaid programs to determine whether federal funds had been improperly spent to care for children living in mental institutions. According to the legislators, the matter centers on a new definition of the “IMD exclusion,” which excludes Medicaid funding for services provided in “institutions for mental disease.” This means federal funds cannot be used to support the medical care of low-income children in mental institutions, they said.

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