Health Care Reform Push Is On

The health care reform debate raged on in Washington over the summer.

NASW has been tracking proposals and utilizing its membership advocacy to support health care reform legislation that best reflects the association's policy statements.

At press time, NASW members were being encouraged to support the House's America's Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200).

"This act is the result of work among three committees in the House to fulfill President Obama's goals of reducing health care costs, protecting and increasing consumers' choices, and guaranteeing access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans," said NASW lobbyist James Finley. "Even though the House bill is expected to be revised, NASW believes the proposal already includes many provisions that are critical to effective, comprehensive health care reform."

The key provisions in H.R. 3200 protect current health insurance coverage, allowing individuals to keep the insurance they have. It preserves choices of doctors, hospitals and health plans. The bill creates a shared responsibility among individuals, employers and government to ensure that all Americans have affordable coverage of essential health benefits.

The association also supports the bill because it contains a Medicare provision that expands clinical social work services delivered to certain Medicare beneficiaries in nursing homes.

Visitors can find the latest details of NASW's advocacy efforts as well as links to its policy statements on health care reform, action alerts, legislative proposals and the coalitions that NASW has joined.

The association is encouraging the inclusion of portions of the Dorothy I. Height/Whitney M. Young Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 795/S. 686) in any health care reform legislation as well.

"In particular, we are working to include language about the social work commission," said NASW lobbyist Asua Ofosu said. "The social work commission would study the social work work force and report to Congress the need for recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment of the social work profession."

NASW is also keeping track of the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee's Affordable Health Choices Act legislation.

The Senate's proposal aims to reduce health costs, protect individuals' choice in doctors and plans, and assure quality and affordable health care for Americans.

According to the HELP Committee, the legislation builds on the existing employer-based system and strengthens it, gives people the option to keep the insurance they have, provides better choices for those with no coverage now and those for whom coverage is unaffordable, and gives small businesses better options for high-value health coverage.

According to Ofosu, the Senate proposal would also enhance health care work force education and training by creating grants for schools to boost training in social work geriatrics. It would award mental and behavioral health education and training grants to institutes of higher education to support the recruitment of social work students, expand the geriatric career awards for clinical social workers and establish loan forgiveness for allied health professionals, in which social workers are included.

"As we await the release of the health care reform bill from the Senate Finance Committee, we will continue to review and discuss the major health care reform bills and the implications for social workers and the people they serve," Ofosu said.