Urgent Action Request on House Medicare Bill

Take Action!

A crucial House floor vote on Medicare legislation is expected tomorrow, Tuesday, June 24th. Email your Representative now, urging them to support HR. 6331 on the floor. Send the message below to support passage of this important bill for clinical social workers. Simply enter your zip code and send this preformed letter.

Message: I am writing as a constituent, professional social worker, and member of the National Association of Social Workers. I urge you to support passage of the Medicare Bill (HR. 6331). This bill includes much-needed adjustments to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to high-quality mental health care. The bill is especially important for the Medicare beneficiaries I serve, as it restores funding for clinical social work payments cut in 2007. This cut has placed the Medicare mental health benefit at risk and addressing it must be a top priority in any Medicare legislation the House passes. I also am pleased the bill finally treats mental health equal to other medical benefits and provides Medicare coinsurance parity and halts the scheduled 10.6% cut for all Part B provider payments. Please vote to pass H.R. 6331. It will make a real difference for the beneficiaries I serve.

Background: The House Medicare bill, also known as the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008, (HR. 6331) includes important provisions for clinical social workers, including a rate increase for clinical social work services cut in 2007. Clinical social worker rates would increase for psychotherapy and related services by 5% ($45 million) for 18 months from July 1, 2008 through December 31, 2009, above the rate given to other medical services. 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. In addition, the House and Senate bills contain 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. This year’s Medicare package is designed primarily to halt the scheduled 10.6% cut in all Part B provider payment rates. Both the House and Senate bills (HR. 6331/S. 3101) would postpone the cut for 18 months beginning July 1, 2008 and increase payments for all providers by 1.1% for 2009, including clinical social workers participating in Part B. In addition to the 1.1% increase in 2009, clinical social workers would receive an increase of 5% (effective July 1, 2008) above those of other providers, if this bill passes.

The House bill, H.R. 6331, is based on the Baucus/Snowe Medicare bill, S. 3101, which was debated on the Senate Floor, but failed to win enough votes for passage on June 12. The Senate is now behind closed doors renegotiating its bill.

A Piece is Missing: Unfortunately, neither the House nor Senate bills include language sought by NASW permitting 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 earlier House Medicare package (HR. 3162) and NASW is still working to get Senator Baucus to add it to his bill in the Senate. Over 3,000 of you have sent over 7,000 messages to your Senators advocating for this inclusion. Senators still need to hear from you to add the Mikulski bill (S.1212) to S.3102, so if you have not already sent a message, do so now. (link to last week’s alert) For background on legislative activity last year, see NASW’s website: NASW Medicare Alert.

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