News from the Hill – July 2010, Second Edition

Political Climate

We’re approaching a crucial time in any election cycle: the deadline for federal candidates to report their second quarter fundraising figures.  By July 15, everyone running for Congress must tell the Federal Elections Commission how much they’ve raised through June 30.

This is important for a few reasons.  For one, we’ll know how much money individuals have raised on their own, but also in the context of their opponent’s cash on hand figures.  A figure of $700,000 might seem like a lot; it matters whether one’s opponent has $200,000 or $2,000,000 at the same point in time.  Second quarter numbers tend to kick-start the season in which more polling is released.  Whether a candidate has outraised their opponent or not, they all want to prove that either their financial edge is showing in the polls as well, or that in spite of mediocre fundraising they’re still doing well in the eyes of voters.  In addition, more money means more ads on television, radio, and the internet.  This is how issues emerge and races begin to take shape, rather than earlier timeframes when voters are just getting to know candidates. Once the second quarter numbers are available, our ability to analyze the general political landscape as well as specific races will markedly improve.

Obama Appoints Dr. Donald Berwick as CMS Administrator

On Wednesday, July 7, 2010, President Obama bypassed the Senate and appointed Dr. Donald Berwick Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The President’s action, known as a recess appointment, allowed Berwick to immediately lead CMS and avoids what was expected to become a partisan fight in the Senate over the nominee. NASW had joined with many other national health organizations in endorsing Dr. Berwick’s strong qualifications for the position and in urging the Senate to quickly approve his nomination.

The White House justified the action because of clear signs that Republican senators intended to stall the confirmation process. The White House also argued that Berwick’s rapid installation is necessary to keep on track with implementing the new health reform law. The recess appointment enables Berwick, a well regarded international health care quality expert, to serve through December 2011 without Senate confirmation. He will also be eligible for re-nomination to the position at the end of next year.

In other recent reform news, the Kaiser Family Foundation announced that public support for the new law has begun to climb from 41 percent to 48 percent in the past month, see report here.

New Online Health Care Tool Now Available to Consumers

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has unveiled a new online tool to help consumers take control of their health care by connecting them to information and resources that will help them access quality, affordable health care coverage. Known as HealthCare.gov, the web site provides consumers with information on both public and private health coverage options tailored to their needs in a single, easy-to-use tool. The site has a central database of health coverage options, combining information about programs ranging from Medicare to the new Pre-Existing Conditions Insurance Plan, including information from more than 1,000 private insurance plans.

HealthCare.gov will expand as components of the new law become effective. In October 2010, price estimates for health insurance plans will be available online and information on preventing disease and illness and improving the quality of health care. Eventually the site will include pricing and plan performance information so that consumers can see, understand and make meaningful choices about their health coverage.

NASW Joins Groups on GINA Letter to EEOC

On June 29, NASW joined several health organizations on a letter to Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), urging the EEOC to remain consistent with Title I regulations regarding genetic information and use the same approach other cabinet departments did when they issued their interim final rule about GINA and employment title.

The letter asks the EEOC to ensure that in “addressing the collection of genetic information through ‘health risk assessment’-style questionnaires, the EEOC takes the same approach as the Depts. of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury when they issued their interim final rule – namely that answering questions on family history or genetics is entirely optional.

In 2008, the Genetics Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was signed into law.  One of GINA’s most important tenets is that individuals have the right to keep their genetic information private without penalty. The provision of genetic information must be truly voluntary.  The letter states, “if the EEOC regulations were to allow employers to penalize employees who do not divulge genetic information, it would greatly undermine the protections Congress deliberately included in GINA and create an untenable inconsistency with the regulations implementing Title I.

NASW Supports the Seniors’ Bill of Rights

Recently, NASW sent a letter to fellow social worker, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) thanking her for introducing a resolution supporting the Seniors’ Bill of Rights. The Seniors’ Bill of Rights, S. Res. 553, is an important resolution that urges Congress to uphold the dignity and independence of older Americans by supporting efforts that guarantee financial security; quality and affordable health and long-term care; protection from abuse, scams, and exploitation; a strong economy now and for future generations; and safe and livable communities with adequate housing and transportation options. As stated in the letter, “NASW strongly supports these rights”.  S. Res. 553 is the companion resolution to H. Res. 1342 introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).

Advocacy Blog Roundup

NASW supports Recommendations on Achieving the

Millennium Development Goals

Care of Veterans Being Addressed

Alert Roundup

Support Legislation to Ban Corporal Punishment in Schools

Ask President Obama to Push Ratification of CEDAW

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In the month of June, 255 activists sent 378 advocacy messages to Congress through Capwiz. The most active alerts were about the Tax Extenders Bill and the Social Work Reinvestment Act.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action!  To see all alerts, go here.

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