Senate floor consideration of Medicare legislation has begun and crucial votes affecting social workers are expected through next Tuesday. Due to strong White House opposition to the bill, many GOP Senators are reluctant to support this important legislation. Grassroots contacts to your Senators are needed now, urging them to support including S.1212 in the Baucus/Snowe Medicare Bill (S. 3101) and support the final bill on final passage.
CLICK HERE to send the letter below to your Senators to support including S.1212 in S.3101 and final cloture and passage of the Baucus-Snowe Medicare bill.
I am writing as a constituent, professional social worker, and member of the National Association of Social Workers. I urge you to support including S.1212 in S.3101 on the floor and support cloture and passage of the Baucus-Snowe Medicare Bill (S.3101).
The Baucus bill (S.3101) includes much-needed adjustments to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to high-quality mental health care. However, a critical provision for clinical social workers must be added, known as the Clinical Social Work Medicare Equity Act (S.1212). This bill allows clinical social workers to bill Medicare directly for the mental health services they provide in Skilled Nursing Facilities, as they were able to do before the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Please support adding S.1212 to the Baucus bill and vote for cloture to the final Baucus-Snowe Medicare Bill. This bill (S. 1212) is scored by CBO at “no cost” and it will make a real difference for consumers like those I serve.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) has released his bi-partisan Medicare bill (Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, S. 3101), that includes important provisions for clinical social work services, including a rate increase for clinical social work services cut in 2007 by a 5-year review. The Committee’s very broad Medicare package, which is cosponsored by GOP Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), would increase rates for psychotherapy and related services by 5% ($45 million) for 18 months from July 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009. Given strong pressure from the White House to narrow the bill, this is a huge victory for clinical social workers and psychologists who have worked to restore psychotherapy rates in Medicare. Very importantly, the Baucus bill also contains the Medicare coinsurance parity provision, reducing beneficiaries’ copayments by 5% per year from 50% in 2009 to 20% in 2014 – at full parity with medical and surgical benefits. This is a legislative goal long sought by NASW and we are strongly supportive of this provision.
This year’s Senate Medicare package is designed primarily to halt the scheduled 10.6% cut in all provider payment rates under Medicare Part B outpatient services. Senator Baucus’s bill would postpone the cut for 18 months starting July 1, 2008 and increase payments for all providers by 1.1% for 2009, including clinical social workers participating in Part B. Social workers would receive an increase of 5% above those of other providers if this bill passes.
A Piece is Missing:
Unfortunately, the bill does not include language sought by NASW to permit clinical social workers to bill separately for services to Medicare Part A nursing home residents (Clinical Social Work Medicare Equity Act, S.1212). This provision was included in the House Medicare package (HR. 3162) and NASW is fighting to get Senator Baucus to add it to his bill on the floor.
Your Senators need to hear from you TODAY to add the Mikulski bill (S.1212) to S.3102 on the floor and to end the filibuster and support passage of the Baucus-Snowe Medicare bill (S. 3101).
For background on legislative activity last year, see NASW’s website: NASW Medicare Alert.