NASW has outlined its 2008 legislative agenda in a new report.
Written by NASW's Government Relations staff, the document states that many issues important to social workers will be prominent during the federal-level races this election cycle.
The Social Work Reinvestment Initiative (SWRI) will be emphasized, as well as health care topics such as universal coverage, care for veterans returning from Iraq, and Medicare.
The report stated that NASW centered much of its political efforts on SWRI in the past year. The goal of SWRI is to secure federal and state investments in professional social work to enhance societal well-being. The Action Network for Social Work Education and Research (ANSWER) is coordinating efforts to recruit new social workers, retain experienced social workers and promote social work research.
The report stated that SWRI is a national effort with federal, state and local components. The cornerstone of the federal initiative is the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA) introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in February (H.R. 5447). [See story in this News.]
NASW chapters are implementing state-level SWRI plans in 2008. The plans are as varied as the chapters themselves, the report stated. Each plan reflects social work needs, particularly in the areas of public education, loan forgiveness, compensation, training, reimbursement and recruitment.
The College Opportunity and Affordability Act (H.R. 4137) allows persons with degrees in social work or related fields and who are employed by public or private child welfare agencies to have part of their college loans forgiven. NASW will continue to work with other national organizations to promote passage of the bill and loan forgiveness for social workers in child welfare and education.
Medicare Equity Act
The report noted that NASW is very active in trying to restore payment rates in the Clinical Social Work Medicare Equity Act (S. 1212) and other legislation to repair the Medicare mental health benefit. Medicare payments for clinical social workers reached a crisis point in 2007 when already-inadequate Medicare payments for clinical social work services were cut at the start of the year, the report said.
The Teri Zenner Social Worker Safety Act (H.R. 2165) has bipartisan support, staff reported. There is hope the bill will move closer to consideration during this session of Congress. NASW will continue promoting the measure in the House and is seeking a Senate sponsor for a companion bill.
Other legislation and issues NASW will monitor in 2008 include: child welfare training; National Center for Social Work Research Act (S. 106); Medicaid Foster Care Coverage Act (H.R. 1376); several civil rights bills; Health Information Technology and Personal Privacy (S.1693); mental health services appropriations; Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity (S. 558/ H.R. 1424); State Child Health Insurance Program; and health care reform.
Also, in collaboration with C-Change, NASW will organize a Capitol Hill briefing regarding cancer patient navigation. The briefing will include advocacy for Congress to provide the $25 million necessary to fully fund the 2005 Cancer Patient Navigation Act.
Staff cautioned that they expect more legislative gridlock as electoral campaigns for Congress and the presidency shift into high gear.
The outline noted that Democratic Party leaders will be quick to point out that many of their 2006 campaign promises were delivered in 2007, including raising the minimum wage, implementing recommendations of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and trying to stop ethics abuses that have plagued Congress. Republicans, however, contend that there were issues that the Democratic-led Congress failed to accomplish, such as reforming U.S. immigration law, bringing an end to the combat in Iraq and expanding health coverage for children in need.