Medicare payment rates for clinical social worker services and payments for all physician services, delivered independently under Part B are scheduled for a 21% cut in 2010. Congress is addressing Medicare provider payment rates in health care reform legislation. In addition, NASW seeks inclusion of a Medicare provision expanding clinical social work services delivered to certain Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes. These very important improvements in clinical social work payments are included in the House health reform bill (H.R. 3200), and NASW is strongly supporting these provisions. They appear likely to remain in the House bill, but their status in the forthcoming Senate bill is still unknown.
The FY 2010 Senate Labor Health and Human Services (LHHS) bill included report language encouraging Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase funding for the minority fellowship program. The LHHS Committee notes that the demographics of our society are changing dramatically. Minorities represent 30 percent of the population and are projected to increase to 40 percent by 2025. Yet only 23 percent of recent doctorates in psychology, social work and nursing were awarded to minorities. The Committee encourages SAMHSA to increase funding for the minority fellowship program in order to train an increasing number of culturally competent mental health professionals. Increased funding is also needed given the recent expansion of eligibility for this program to include additional professions.
With both houses of Congress now in recess, the dialogue on health care reform will shift over the next month in both nature and tone. The “inside the Beltway” approach to constructing specific bills is now on hiatus, and the process of selling Americans on the benefits of reform (for most Democratic members of Congress) or the hazards of it (for many Republican members of Congress) is now underway. Town halls and Q&A sessions will be predominant for a few weeks, while Washington-based interest groups ponder strategies to support or hinder reform after Labor Day. Since multiple bills still exist and there is not yet one specific health care reform proposal at present, Members of Congress will be challenged to explain the ideas and concepts behind health care reform without getting too specific.
Over the August recess we encourage social workers to attend Town Hall Meetings and discuss health care reform. We are sending announcements to Advocacy Listserv members when we hear of a Town Hall Meeting in your district or state. Personal stories are very effective at these Town Hall Meetings. Make sure you identify yourself as a social worker. Here are some talking points you can use at the Town Hall Meeting:
- Pass health care reform now
- We want all people covered; national policy must ensure a universal right to insurance coverage for a continuum of health and behavioral health services.
- We want quality health care. Health care reform must promote wellness, maintain optimal health, prevent illness and disability, ameliorate the effects of unavoidable incapacities, and provide supportive long-term palliative end-of-life care.
- We want health care that recognizes the need for social work services; social workers are an important part of the health care team.
For ongoing information, please visit our health care page.