News from the Hill – February 2010

Feb 13, 2010

Take Action Now! – Social Work Reinvestment

On February 3, Ed Towns (NY-10) introduced H.R. 795, the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act. To date there are 38 cosponsors. The act establishes a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to address the future of the profession. It also establishes demonstration programs that address the current state of the social work profession. You can contact your member of Congress and ask them to become a cosponsor of the legislation.

Pay discrimination denounced

The first 6 weeks of the 111th Congress have been exciting. Congress passed and the President signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (Public Law No. 111-2). The law reverses a Supreme Court decision that acutely limits women workers’ capacity to sue for wage discrimination. It changes the law to declare that an unlawful practice occurs when a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted, when a person becomes subject to the decision or other practice, or when a person is affected by the decision or practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid. Therefore, a person can file a complaint about wage discrimination after any pay check that includes the pay discrimination. NASW Executive Director, Betsy Clark, was invited to the bill signing ceremony at the White House. You can view the video of the signing on our Web site.

Children’s Health Care passed

Another big win was passage of SCHIP legislation (Public Law No. 111-3). This legislation includes a mandate that mental health treatment be on par with medical health services. More specifically, the new law prohibits SCHIP plans from setting lower treatment limitations or higher financial requirements on coverage of mental health or substance use services than they set for other health services. It will cover around 4 million additional uninsured children. It is paid for, primarily with a 62-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax. It will extend federal support of CHIP through 2013. It encourages states to enroll children who are already eligible but not yet covered, and gives states new tools to reach uninsured children. It removes the five-year waiting period for legal immigrant children and pregnant women who enroll in Medicaid or CHIP. See the final vote.

Economic stimulus package nearly completed

The Economic Stimulus Package took up a good deal of time in late January and early February. The House passed the bill 244-188 with no Republicans voting for the bill. The House legislation costs $820 billion. The Senate negotiated away some provisions in the bill, but passed the legislation 61-37. The Senate legislation costs $838 billion. The House and Senate conferenced the stimulus package and came up with a $789 billion package. It includes $59 billion in assistance for unemployed workers and families, $21 billion for health insurance assistance, $90 billion for state fiscal relief and Medicaid, and $19 billion for health information technology, including privacy protections that NASW has strongly supported for years. At press time we are awaiting an analysis of these new federal patient privacy protections. Look for further information about how the provisions may affect your practice in the coming weeks. See the votes.