NASW offers three new Practice Perspectives, ACA fact sheet

By Rena Malai, News staff

The NASW Practice Perspectives series offers three new publications to educate members about social work developments that will enhance their professional practices.

In addition, NASW has compiled a consumer fact sheet on health care reform, explaining important benefits of the Affordable Care Act for individuals and families.

The newest Practice Perspectives — “Essential Health Benefits & the Affordable Care Act: What Social Workers Need to Know,” “Employee Assistance Programs: Social Work at ‘Work,’” and “Challenges and Opportunities for Social Workers in Hospice and Palliative Care” — were written by NASW staff and released in fall 2012.

• “Essential Health Benefits & the Affordable Care Act: What Social Workers Need to Know”

One important component of the Affordable Care Act will impact the well-being of more than 70 million Americans. Starting in January 2014, most individual and small group health plans will need to provide essential health benefits, a package of health services broadly defined by the ACA. Each state may customize its own EHB. This Practice Perspective informs NASW members of the importance of learning the EHB process in their states to ensure that the needs of the vulnerable population are addressed, particularly people with behavioral health disorders and disabling or chronic conditions.

Social workers learn why the EHB is important, how the EHB process works and the 10 EHB categories each state must adopt to customize or ‘benchmark’ their plans. Becoming familiar with the developments of the ACA will help social workers navigate the health care system as it goes through important changes.

• “Employee Assistance Programs: Social Work at ‘Work’”

EAP is a growing area of clinical   practice for mental health professionals. An employee assistance program is an employer-paid benefit that provides counseling to employees for a variety of professional and personal concerns.

This Practice Perspective provides an overview of the EAP area of practice, and describes the skills and training needed to become an EAP social worker.

• “Challenges and Opportunities for Social Workers in Hospice and Palliative Care”

A growing specialty area of social work, hospice and palliative care provides physical, psychosocial and spiritual care to individuals and families affected by serious or life-limiting illness.

Social workers have played an integral role in hospice and palliative care since the inception of these fields. But in recent years the federal government has downgraded the qualifications needed to practice social work in Medicare- and Medicaid-certified hospice programs. This change is part of the deprofessionalization trend affecting social workers and clients in a variety of practice settings.

This Perspective informs social workers of the knowledge and skills needed for palliative and hospice social work, outlines the federal personnel requirements for hospice social work and emphasizes the importance of professional social work in this area. A section is included on what social workers can do to uphold and promote the professional social work role in hospice and palliative care.

In addition to the Practice Perspective on the ACA, NASW created a consumer fact sheet on the law to increase public understanding of how health care reform will unfold in the next few years. The fact sheet summarizes the benefits the ACA offers individuals and families, including coverage for pre-existing conditions, preventive care with no cost sharing, drug discounts for seniors and the expansion of coverage through Medicaid and the insurance exchanges. The resource emphasizes that social workers are important members of the health care team and are an excellent resource for guidance on health reform.

Full implementation of the law will require social workers to educate their clients and communities on its benefits, and the fact sheet is one tool for communicating this message. The fact sheet is available on NASWs home page, at www.socialworkers.org, and on www.helpstartshere.org/health-wellness/healthy-lifestyles/health-reform.html. NASW chapters can access a customizable version on SharePoint.

For more information about health care reform and the Affordable Care Act, visit www.healthcare.gov.

Practice Perspectives are available online at www.socialworkers.org/practice/newsletters/default.asp

From the January 2013 NASW News.

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