Social Work Must Keep a Sharp Eye on Healthcare Policy

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The timeliness of the social work health convening next week by the Center for Health Administration Studies (CHAS) could not be more propitious as many Americans nervously prepare themselves for the incoming Donald Trump administration.

At the top of the incoming administration’s policy agenda is the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—a priority shared by the Republican-controlled Congress. What is troubling is there is no credible Republican substitute for the ACA. The most talked about strategy is to repeal the law but delay its effects for several years until a substitute can be agreed upon which is a recipe for disaster as the healthcare insurance industry would most likely not stick around and would abandon exchanges.

On Monday, January 9, a cadre of social work scholars and leaders will gather at the University of Chicago’s Gleacher Center to discuss the state of social work research and training in healthcare. The day-long meeting has three stated goals: (1) To review and assess the state of social work research, knowledge and educational models in health policy and practice; (2) To recognize emerging social work contributions to understanding social determinants of health and health and social service integration; (3) To contribute to ongoing momentum to work with National Academies to increase capacity of health social work to improving Nation’s health for all. Another must be to closely monitor proposed changes to healthcare policy at national level.

CHAS Director Dr. Jeanne C. Marsh is the George Herbert Jones Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. She served as the school’s dean from 1988 to 1998 and from 2005 to 2010. She sees her mission as building on the tradition of policy and services that leads to improved health care for the disadvantaged—including the Affordable Care Act and promoting the translation of research into policy and practice. Among the topics that will be covered at the convening are: costs and outcomes of health social work predictive modeling, improving healthcare quality by addressing social determinants of health, and lessons learned from the integration of primary and behavioral healthcare.

The desire to undo the healthcare reform law that Republicans derisively named Obamacare has reached an irrational level of frenzy for no other reason than to deny President Barack Obama his most significant legislative achievement. Much of the ACA is derived from ideas for health reform promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation during the 1990s. Are there problems with the ACA? Of course, there are as there would be with any attempt to provide healthcare insurance for the pool of uninsured which includes people with low incomes and pre-existing health conditions. Secretary Hillary Clinton acknowledged the need for several fixes for the ACA during her campaign. Keep in mind we are talking about providing healthcare insurance, not providing healthcare. If the desire is to provide healthcare, then we would move to a system of Medicare for all Americans.

The GOP has been successful with their efforts to demonize Obamacare and build a consensus for its elimination among its supporters. Without a suitable replacement millions of Americans will lose their precious access to healthcare affordable or not. Many valuable components of the law promoting no-cost preventive services and system delivery reform could disappear as well. Republicans say they would like to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions and would like to continue providing coverage for children up to 26 years old under their parent’s plan, but have not devised a way to pay for these provisions.

Republicans will waste little time when Congress returns to session this week as plans are to have a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act on the President’s desk the day he is sworn into office. Some Republicans believe their control of the House, Senate and White House also provides them an opportunity to reform Medicare and Medicaid, the latter by block granting funds to the states. Medicare is a much more of a dicey challenge because it remains popular with Americans across the political spectrum. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) and Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) governmental relations people will undoubtedly be keeping a close watch on the appropriations process where budgetary adjustments to key healthcare agencies such as the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) could have significant consequences for social work and other vital healthcare training initiatives.

The post Social Work Must Keep a Sharp Eye on Healthcare Policy appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy.

Written By Charles E. Lewis Jr., Ph.D

Social Work Must Keep a Sharp Eye on Healthcare Policy was originally published @ Charles Lewis – Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission.

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