Implementation of Affordable Care Act topic of Dec. briefing

The Society for Social Work and Research hosted a Capitol Hill briefing in December to discuss the effects the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will have on social workers.

The briefing — “Social Work and the Implementation of the Affordable Care Act” — was held in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus, which NASW actively supports.

Moderator Sarah Gehlert, from the Brown School of Social Work at Washington University in St. Louis, introduced a panel of three speakers: Christina Andrews, College of Social Work at the University of North Carolina; Julie Darnell, School of Public Health at the University of Illinois of Chicago; and Tim McBride, the Brown School of Social Work.

The panel said as the provisions of the ACA unfold, it is important for social workers to remain informed about Medicaid expansion, the 10 titles of the act, and regulations that are predicted to have a dramatic impact on the growth of the social work profession. The panel stressed that social workers will have important roles in care coordination and patient navigation in meeting the provisions of the ACA.

“A lot of roles for social workers will emerge at the state level,” McBride said, “and implementation of the act will happen state by state.”

Social workers are already qualified in enrolling uninsured people in health insurance, which is not an easy task, Darnell said.

“Social workers are well-positioned to do these sorts of things,” she said. “There will be a steep learning curve as every state will vary with Medicaid eligibility, so it’s important for social workers to be at the vanguard of navigation.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the health care system will rely on social workers to fill roles in behavioral health services, according to the panel, and social work jobs in behavioral health are expected to increase by 31 percent between 2010 and 2020.

“Social workers should watch the rules and regulations of the ACA as they come out,” Andrews said. “The ACA will dramatically increase insurance coverage and the demand for social workers will double.”

For more information on the ACA, NASW members can download: Affordable Care Act Integration, and visit the Health Practice section.