Ohio Congresswoman Brown Pushing Bill to Expand Government Role in Healthcare

U.S. Representative Shontel Brown (D-OH-11) is leading a charge among members of Congress in favor of a measure to expand the federal government’s role in healthcare, particularly regarding mental-health-related comorbidities. 

The Cleveland-area Democrat is cosponsoring her Mental and Physical Health Care Comorbidities Act with House colleague Brendan Boyle (D-PA-2). Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) has introduced a version of the legislation in his chamber. 

In a statement, Brown said her bill is needed to counteract the “intersection between mental, behavioral and physical health, as well as the social determinants of health, such as economic status and food insecurity.” She and her cosponsors want healthcare providers to collaborate with “social experts” to devise plans for more “holistic” treatment in consultation with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). 

The bill would authorize CMMI administrators to arrange annualized funding arrangements with each participating hospital to implement the demonstration program. Brown said one practice she believes healthcare institutions should embrace as part of the effort is the integration of behavioral health screenings into medical screenings, especially for children and other young patients. She also anticipates her legislation will spur payment reforms and improvements to electronic record-keeping. 

“Communities of color and other marginalized groups continue to feel the significant impact of comorbid mental and physical disease,” Brown said. “This summer, I secured an amendment in the House-passed NDAA that would require the Department of Defense to explore the presence of comorbidities among active service members. In the same vein, the Mental and Physical Health Comorbidities Collaborative Act [is something] I am proud to co-lead with Rep. Brendan Boyle and Sen. Michael Bennet and [that] would ensure our healthcare system is equipped to treat comorbidities that affect our most vulnerable populations.”

Elections earlier this month gave Republicans a likely 222-213 seat majority in the House of Representatives going into the new term that begins next year, so Brown and Boyle face long odds if they hope to reintroduce their bill next year and strive for its passage. Bennet will also face high resistance getting his companion bill approved in the Senate despite the Democrats’ narrow majority because a Republican filibuster would necessitate 60 affirmative votes for passage. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Shontel Brown” by Shontel Brown for Congress. Background Photo “Ohio State Capitol Building” by formulanone. CC BY-SA 2.0.


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