News from the Hill – December 2010

Dec 15, 2010

Due to the holidays and the anticipated adjournment of Congress, News from the Hill will publish only one edition in December.

Congress Approves CAPTA Reauthorization Bill

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) Reauthorization Act of 2010, S. 3817, passed the final legislative hurdle on December 10 when the Senate, by unanimous consent, agreed to the few minor amendments made in the bill passed by the House on Dec. 8. The bill promotes the use of differential response in child protective services, gives special attention to the co-occurrence of child maltreatment and domestic violence, and sharpens the prevention focus of the community-based child abuse prevention grants. S. 3817 increases current authorized levels for the CAPTA programs by 10% for 2011 and by “such sums” for the next four years.

NASW has advocated for the timely reauthorization of, and appropriate funding for CAPTA for many years. Recently, we collaborated with the Child Abuse Coalition to submit comments to enhance the legislation and many of our recommendations were included in the compromise language. We also worked to urge the full Congress to approve the fiscal year 2011 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education appropriations bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in August to fund CAPTA at $105.519 million, an increase of $8.275 million over the current 2010 funding levels. We will keep you apprised of CAPTA’s progress as it awaits the President’s signature.

President Signs Child Nutrition Bill

On December 2, Congress passed the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, landmark child nutrition legislation that provides the largest increase in funding for the school lunch program in decades. The bill makes it easier for qualified children to receive free school meals, extends after-school meals to more at-risk children, and provides additional technical assistance to local school food service providers. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 13, setting the stage for the elimination of soda and other junk foods from schools nationwide, a priority of First Lady Michelle Obama.

Click here to view the bill and the summary documents on the Senate Agriculture Committee site: http://ag.senate.gov/site/legislation.html

Medicare Payments for Clinical Social Work Services Restored

The Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 (HR 4994) passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 8 and the House 409-2 on December 9.  The President is expected to sign the bill shortly. The legislation will halt a 25 percent “physician payment” or Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) cut for one full year through the end of 2011. This across the board cut would have applied to all clinical social worker payments for psychological services billed independently under Part B. It would instead extend current payment rates through 2011, at an estimated cost of $14.9 billion over 10 years. The measure also would extend a range of expiring Medicare payment provisions, including a cap on therapy services, hospital geographic reclassifications, and the Transitional Medical Assistance program that allows low-income families to maintain Medicaid coverage as they start jobs and show increased earnings.

Most importantly for clinical social workers and psychologists, the measure also includes a one-year extension of the 5 percent psychotherapy payment restoration.  The provision ensures the continuation of $30 million in Medicare payments for 2011, which will be shared by clinical social workers psychologists billing the program.  The bill also provides funding to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to process backlogged payments for claims since January 1, 2010 to which the restoration will be retroactively applied.

Medicare CSW payment issues will remain a top priority for NASW in the coming year.  While we continue to face a challenging environment and complex battles on payment issues, this victory demonstrates the importance of NASW advocacy on behalf of the social work profession.

Senate Approves Red Flags Bill, House Action Needed Immediately

National organizations representing health care professionals, including NASW, are calling on the House to quickly pass the “Red Flag Program Clarification Act of 2010” (S 3987) prior to adjourning the 111th Congress. NASW provided input and support in drafting this recently introduced legislation, which was quickly approved by the Senate on November 30.

The bill would narrow the scope of the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (P.L. 108-159), which directs the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to promulgate rules requiring “creditors” and “financial institutions” to implement programs to detect and respond to Red Flags (patterns, practices, or specific activities) that could indicate identity theft. The FTC’s Red Flags Rule implementing the law became effective on January 1, 2008, but enforcement was repeatedly set aside by objections from small-scale independent professionals such as physicians, accountants and social workers.

The proposed rule swept up many social workers by defining “creditors” as any person that sells a product or service for which the consumer can pay later. NASW joined with others in the health professional community in expressing its concerns to the FTC. Due to agency indecision, some professional organizations representing attorneys and health professionals appealed to Congress for statutory clarification.

In May, the FTC announced it would delay enforcing the Red Flags Rule through December, but that delay is now expiring and Congressional action is needed urgently. The bill approved by the Senate, redefined creditors to exclude social workers and many other professionals. NASW has therefore urged the House to approve this important legislation. See this link for background on NASW’s previous activity in this area.

Social Work Reinvestment Act Briefing Held on Capitol Hill

Congressman Edolphus Towns, the House sponsor of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act, held a Congressional briefing on the legislation on November 17, 2010 to highlight the critical role that social workers play in our society and the necessity of reinvesting in the profession in order to provide the social safety net that has become increasingly important to individuals and communities in our nation.

Dr. Tricia Bent Goodley, with the National Association of Black Social Workers and Howard University moderated the panel and Mr. Albert Whiltshire, Congressman Towns’ Chief of Staff, provided opening remarks. Speakers included Dr. Avis Jones-DeWeever, Executive Director of the National Council of Negro Women (who spoke about Dr. Height), Dr. Betsy Clark, Executive Director of NASW, (who discussed the history of the legislation), Ms. Mit Joyner, President of the Council on Social Work Education (who discussed the need to reinvest in the profession of social work), Dr. Jeane Anastas, President of NASW (who discussed the workforce challenges facing the profession), Dr. Richard Barth, Dean of the University of Maryland and President of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare (who discussed how the legislation would address the workforce challenges, and Dr. Joan Levy Zlotnik, Director of the Social Work Policy Institute  (who provided closing remarks).

For more information, including the full remarks, please visit: http://socialworkreinvestment.org/2010/hearing111810.html

DREAM Act Passes House, On to Senate

On December 8, 2010, the U.S. House passed the DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act with a bi-partisan vote of 216-198. The DREAM Act would provide an earned legal pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth who pursue higher education or serve in the U.S. military.  This bill supports the core social work values of human rights, freedom from discrimination, and social justice. We are now waiting on the Senate to vote on this legislation. The president is expected to sign it if passed.

Healthy People 2020 Launched

On December 2, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched Healthy People 2020. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Howard K. Koh unveiled the Healthy People 2020 goals, objectives, and the nation’s health promotion and disease prevention agenda.  The 2020 edition of the Healthy People objectives includes several new health topics including LGBT health, global health, and preparedness, among others. It also emphasizes a renewed focus on measuring and tracking the social determinants of health and on reducing health disparities.   To learn more, please go to: http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/default.aspx

NASW Cosponsors Health Action Conference

NASW is once again proud to cosponsor Health Action 2011, the annual health meeting for consumer health advocates sponsored by Families USA. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee and chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services; Jonathan Gruber, professor of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the health care program at the National Bureau of Economic Research; Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor professor of political science at Yale University, resident fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies, and fellow at the New America Foundation will be on hand to speak about the current state of health policy in America.

The conference will take place from January 27-29, 2011.  Health Action 2011 will provide advocates from across the country with the knowledge and tools they need to protect, implement, and optimize the Affordable Care Act. The conference will help advocates prepare for the coming year by laying a strong foundation for the majority of reforms that take effect in 2014.  To learn more about Health Action 2011 and to register, go to:  http://www.healthaction2011.org

Action Alert Roundup

DREAM Act: Ask Your Members of Congress to Vote Yes

Advocacy Blog Roundup

White House: Statement by the President on the House Voting to Approve the DREAM Act

White House Releases Fact Sheet on the Framework Agreement on Middle Class Tax Cuts and Unemployment Insurance

White House: Dream Act Update

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In the month of November, 877 activists sent 1,825 advocacy messages to Congress and the White House through Capwiz. The most active alerts were about pushing for a vote on CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women) and the Increased Student Achievement through Increased Student Support Act.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action!  To see all alerts, go here.

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