SWRI Components Advance
National Association of Social Workers (NASW) members should contact their House Representative now and urge them to vote yes on CHAMP (H.R. 3162) coming to the House floor tomorrow, Wednesday, August 1. Members are asked to immediately email their message of support to their House member. Our suggested message is located on NASW Congress Web at: Medicare Support Letter
THE ISSUE AT HAND
Tomorrow on the House floor, Representatives will consider crucial legislation for clinical social workers within legislation known as the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act (CHAMP, H.R. 3162). NASW hopes to score a major early victory for it’s Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) by attaching legislation to CHAMP that will increase Medicare payment rates for all clinical social workers billing Part B independently as well as restore clinical social workers’ ability to bill Part A independently for services provided to Medicare nursing home residents. One key SWRI component, known as the Clinical Social Work Medicare Equity Act (S.1212) has long been sought by NASW. Recently, NASW has sought relief for LCSW payments under Part B, which were cut by 9% late last year by federal administrative action. The new and fast moving CHAMP legislation will increase LCSW payments by 5% above their current level beginning on January 1, 2008. This special payment increase applies only to psychotherapy and behavioral services that were cut on January 1, 2007 by 9 percent. In addition to the 5 percent increase in 2008, LCSWs will receive the same percent payment change that Congress will authorize for all physician services in the program, currently a .5% positive payment update under CHAMP.
The legislation is very new and just unveiled and considered last week by the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees. NASW has been working aggressively with its advocacy network and behind the scenes to secure these crucial social worker payment increases. CHAMP is a very large bill with many different components. Other key provisions include a significant increase in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), removal of the discriminatory copayments for Medicare psychotherapy services, increases in physician payments, and other benefit improvements in both Medicare and Medicaid. These improvements will be offset by cuts in managed care payments for Medicare, nursing home rates and a substantial increase in tobacco taxes. NASW strongly supports passage of CHAMP as necessary to reform Medicare and further expand child health insurance coverage.
The President has pledged to veto CHAMP on a wide variety of grounds, but Democratic congressional leaders expect to find a political solution to the White House opposition. A Senate companion measure is still taking shape. Currently the Senate is debating an SCHIP bill that does not include any Medicare provisions, but they are expected to add them at a later time. NASW is working with its advocacy network to secure its SWRI Medicare agenda in the still emerging Senate package.