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Posted by advocacy in Advocacy, News From The Hill

News from the Hill – November 2011

 

NASW Submits Comments Regarding EHB Package

On October 26, NASW submitted comments to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding NASW’s recommendations to the Essential Health Benefits (EHB) Package.  In our comments, NASW states that the EHB package will set a national standard for high quality, comprehensive and affordable health care coverage for the country.   The following are NASW recommendations for critical components for inclusion in EHB package:

  • Care coordination and case management
  • Treatment of mental health and substance use disorders, including behavioral health treatment
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices
  • Reproductive health services
  • Hospice and palliative care

To view NASW’s full EHB comments, click here

In related news, HHS is hosting regional “listening sessions” on EHB Package, which will form the basis of coverage offered through the state-based exchanges, when they become operational in 2014.  The EHB will determine health care coverage for millions of Americans – and will potentially influence the structure of health plans in the private market as well.   We need the social work voice heard.  Please consider testifying at your state’s listening session.  The full table can be found at:

http://www.socialworkblog.org/advocacy/2011/11/ehb-listening-sessions-hosted-by-hhs

Congressional Hearing on Federal Student Loans

On October 25, the House Education and Workforce Committee, Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training held a hearing to monitor the progress of the Direct Student Loan Program.  The program was overhauled 19 months ago.  

James Runcie, Chief Operating Officers for Student Aid at the Department of Education stated that the Department is working to better market information about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and the Income Contingent Repayment Program, two programs that were designed to help students manage their debt.   

Further, in her prepared statement, Subcommittee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC) expressed concern that the proposed reforms could have “unintended consequences on the nation’s students, higher education institutions, and our economy.” She cited the increase in student default rates and the Department of Education’s inability to secure borrower data in light of a recent computer failure that allowed borrowers to see each other’s data.  Mr. Runcie stated that the Department has created an internal task force and invested in technology upgrades to address the computer glitch that impacted about 5,000 borrowers.

NASW has lobbied for social workers to be included in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program which provides debt cancellation for eligible borrowers after 10 years of public service. You can read more about that program by going to www.socialworkers.org/loanforgiveness

To view the archived hearing go to http://edworkforcehouse.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=46

The Administration Takes Action to Reduce Student Loan Debt

The Administration recently announced new measures aimed at easing the burden of debt on students struggling to repay their federal college loans. The changes allow qualified social work students and other students with some types of federal loans to consolidate them into one loan, and accelerate the date that the government originally set to offer a new repayment plan contingent on income.

Beginning in January 2012, graduates with two or more federal loans will be able to consolidate those into one loan, thereby reducing the amount of interest by half a percent in some cases.  Currently, borrowers can cap their monthly loan repayments at 15 percent of their income. That cap is set to fall to 10 percent in 2014, but the new proposal would move that timeline to 2012, through the Income Based Repayment Program (IBR).

Although the changes would not help borrowers with private loans or those who have already defaulted on federal loans, we applaud the Administration’s actions to provide additional repayment relief for up to 1.6 million current students, including loan forgiveness after 20, rather than 25 years, of payments.

For more details about the IBR program go to:
http://studentaid.ed.gov/students/attachments/siteresources/IBRQ&A_template_123109_FINAL.pdf and to view the Administration’s announcement, please visit the White House website

Congressional Social Work Caucus

The Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) has already garnered 60 bipartisan members in the House of Representatives and Senator Barbara Mikulski signed on as the first Senate member this week. Are your Representative and Senators a member of this important caucus that creates a platform on Capitol Hill to represent the interests of social workers throughout the United States. The CSWC consists of social worker Members of Congress and those who support the social work profession and society’s social safety net. http://test-socialworkcaucus.towns.house.gov

Don’t forget to contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to support to Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR1106/S686), too.

Political Climate

With the 2012 election roughly a year away, several important political developments are already shaping next year’s landscape.  For one, all candidates for federal office had to report their third quarter fundraising figures to the Federal Election Commission by October 15, 2011.  These publicly available reports detail how much money has been raised by candidates (including incumbents, challengers, and those running for open seats) as well as how much cash they have on hand, which reveals how viable they are heading into this spring’s primaries.  For House and Senate candidates, this is a chance to inspire a media narrative that they are performing well early, which itself can result in more contributions to their campaigns.  In presidential terms, the third quarter is especially important because the Republican primaries are falling especially early this year, and GOP candidates need to prove that they have the resources to make it through several primaries and caucuses scheduled throughout January-March 2012.  These figures are available at www.fec.gov.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction has a deadline of November 23 to determine at least $1.2 trillion worth of savings.  If they are able to meet that deadline, political implications for all federal level candidates would be significant.  Congress would have until December 23 to pass a proposal implementing it into law.  This would surely factor into Republican primaries, caucuses, and debates as well as President Obama’s reelection campaign.  Candidates for Congress in both parties would also be pressed to support or oppose the potential cuts.

NASW Works to Reduce Poverty and Economic Discrimination

NASW continues to work with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights regarding strategies aimed at reducing domestic poverty and economic discrimination.  Despite being one of the richest nations in the world, the United States has 46.2 million people who live in poverty.  That represents 15.1% of the population.   The overall growth of family income has become separate from the economic output and growth of the broader economy.  While productivity grows, middle class families, children, and the underserved are not getting their equal share of this prosperity.

This inequality is due in part to a decline in unionization and a scarcity of employment opportunities which offer sufficient health and retirement benefits that provide families with financial security.  NASW and its social justice allies believe that the Federal Government has the capability and the policy resources to significantly slow the rate of poverty and enhance the status of the middle class.  However, the political will seems lacking.

To this end, coalition efforts have produced policy recommendations that seek to increase the minimum wage, strengthen communities and families, support paid sick leave, reform job training programs, increase funding for education, extend unemployment insurance, create better jobs with upward mobility, and reassess and improve the temporary assistance for needy families program.  These policy prescriptions, we hope, as a collective body, will address many of the systemic income inequalities that prevent America’s neediest from participating in the American dream.  NASW will continue to fight injustice while pursuing meaningful initiatives that are committed to improving the quality of life for all of our citizens.

Advocacy Blog Roundup

The Affordable Care Act Upheld

EHB Listening Sessions Hosted By HHS

Cutting Poverty in Half in Ten Years

Affordable Care Act 101

White House Immigration Action Update

Watch Live Online: All Children Matter: How Legal and Social Inequalities Hurt LGBT Families

HHS Halts CLASS Act

HHS announces record number of National Health Service Corps members

Reject Cuts to Medicaid

BBC to Report on Child Abuse Fatalities in the United States—October 10, 2011

Advocacy Alert Roundup

Ask Congress to Repeal the Sustainable Growth Rate

Budget Control Act: Three Ways to Advocate

Elementary and Secondary Education Act Alert

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In October, 798 activists sent 2,487 advocacy messages to Congress through Capwiz. The most active alert was about repealing the sustainable growth rate. Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action.  To see all alerts, go here.

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