The Presidential Debate, the Supreme Court, and What it Means for the Affordable Care Act

On October 7th, 2020, President Donald Trump went head to head against former Vice President Joe Biden, marking the beginning of the election season and the first debate of 2020. Amongst ongoing chaos, with COVID-19 and racial unrest, this election could make or break the season finale of a monumental year. During the debate, candidates discussed many of the key topics that are at stake during this election, including the open seat in the Supreme Court.

Following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a feminist icon who has paved the way for women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community since 1993, the Court requires a new member, and whether that takes place before or after this upcoming Presidential Election is up for debate. RBG’s final statement was delivered publicly, days before her passing, “My most fervent wish is that I not be replaced until a new president is installed.”

Breakdown of the Candidate’s Segments:

After nominating Amy Coney Barrett the weekend prior to the debate President Trump vouched for her on stage, stating, “I will tell you very simply; we won the election. Elections have consequences – we have the Senate, the White House, and we have a phenomenal nominee respected by all.” Trump asserted that his remaining months in the White House would allow him to appoint Associate Justice Barrett to the empty Supreme Court seat. In his short response, President Trump expressed that her position and academic background qualified her for the seat, and reasoned that if it were up to the Democratic party, they, too, would push to elect someone of their choice for the empty seat.

Vice President Joe Biden argued that Trump’s stance on this matter is unconstitutional, stating that the “American people have a say in who the Supreme Court nominee is. And that say occurs when they vote for United State Senators and for the President of the United States; they are not going to get that option now. The election has already started.  Tens of thousands have already voted and the thing that should happen- is that we wait. We wait and see what this outcome is.”  Vice President Biden expressed his fear that that the nominee for the Supreme Court, who has written against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and deemed it unconstitutional, would place the ACA in jeopardy. He raised concerns about the impact this will have on women’s rights, those with pre-existing health conditions, and the overall reasonableness of healthcare expenses. Biden summarized his thoughts, stating that this matter should be decided on after the election in February of 2021.

Fact-Checking: What is True About Their Statements?

According to the Chicago Tribune, Amy Coney Barrett has not, as Biden claimed, stated that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Barrett has been vocal about her view of the ACA and the laws that upheld it in 2012, but she has not spoken out about whether or not is it constitutionally right within the law.

CNN reported Biden’s concerns about eliminating the ACA would leave approximately 20 million people from having access to affordable health insurance are true. While this appears to be true, and even more so during a global pandemic, the effect of various events of 2020 may have inflated this number. According to a study conducted by the Urban Institute in Washington, which calculated and measured the impact that changing the policy would have on Americans, 20 million people would be without insurance but CNBC reported in August that “up to 12 million Americans may have lost their employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic.”

A final point was brought by President Trump about his Supreme Court Nominee, stating that “some of her biggest endorsers are very liberal people.” For example, Barrett has been endorsed by Noah Feldman, a liberal law professor at Harvard as well as some support from former professors of Notre Dame. However, according to Inside Highered, these endorsements sparked a petition from faculty stating, “Many members of the faculty are strongly opposed to Amy Barrett’s nomination,” the letter said. “Many of us do not know her, but she seems to be a kind, decent, and intelligent person. However, we are strongly opposed to her views — as reflected in her writings, opinions, and dissents,” the letter said.

How Will This Impact Americans?

The Supreme Court will eventually be deciding on matters as impactful as the 1973 Roe V Wade decision, which granted women legal access to abortions. Not only does the future of the ACA lie in the hands of the Supreme Court, so do basic civil and human rights. If the ACA overturned, millions of Americans will be left abandoned in the middle of a pandemic with no replacement plan in place. The remaining options of either buying into another insurer with unreasonably heightened prices, or risking getting sick with the coronavirus with little to no support, would no doubt have massive negative impacts on Americans.

Overturning the ACA would also leave the elderly to struggle to pay for their prescriptions, as the ACA currently covers much of the expenses for seniors’ medications. This would also leave women at risk of experiencing gender-based discrimination from insurers who would charge women more than men on insurance coverage. This could lessen women’s job outlooks because businesses with company-covered insurance would view women as more expensive.

On top of impacting various vulnerable populations, America’s current recession may also be worsened if ACA is done away with. Pre-existing health conditions would once again not be covered, and preventative care will need to be paid out of pocket. Among the pandemic, Black, Latinx, and Native Americans are struggling more than ever with the systemic racism that hinders them from receiving care. If ACA is thrown out, this would leave people of color open for further discrimination by insurance companies to higher rates or denial of coverage.  

The Supreme Court has recently made decisions on sex-based discrimination, religious discrimination, and immigration law. With justices’ life-long terms, this could impact the American people for decades. The current Supreme Court balance has five conservative justices and three liberals, so this next nominee could sway the Supreme Court vote to either side, and that will ultimately impact what is brought to the Supreme Court. With all of this in mind, it is imperative that Americans utilize their right to vote during the election.

Amy Comey Barrett was confirmed by the Senate on October 26th, and the Supreme Court will be voting on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on November 10th, 2020.

Americans Divided on Obamacare Repeal, Poll Finds

ST. LOUIS — As House Republicans labor to define a new plan to replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), public support for the 2010 legislation is at an all-time high, according to a national survey taken in January by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Among Americans in our sample, those opposing repeal now outnumber those favoring repeal, but the margin is small and the divisions are clearly defined by political affiliation,” said Steven S. Smith, the Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences in Arts & Sciences. “The vast majority of Democrats oppose repeal; the vast majority of Republicans favor repeal.”

Summarized in a report issued this week by the university’s Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy, The American Panel Survey (TAPS) polls suggest that most Americans are in agreement about what they like or dislike most about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The American Panel Survey (TAPS) is an innovative online survey that seeks opinions each month from a standing panel of about 2,000 people. The TAPS methodology is different from many national polls in that it goes back to the same respondents each month, allowing researchers to analyze how recent trends are influencing the opinions of individual Americans. For more information, including summary reports on interesting new findings, visit taps.wustl.edu.

Among the most popular ACA provisions: prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions; requiring certain preventative services to be provided without additional out-of-pocket charges; and allowing people to be included on parents’ insurance policies until age 26.

“These features increase the cost of providing insurance coverage and are proving to be a challenge to congressional Republicans’ efforts to create less expensive health insurance options,” said Smith, an expert on congressional politics and director of the Weidenbaum Center.

Meanwhile, a majority of Americans polled also expressed a great dislike for the ACA provision that places a tax penalty on people who remain uninsured, a provision designed to generate revenue and defray costs associated with ACA programs.

“Our findings confirm that the tax penalty for mandated coverage is unpopular,” Smith said.  “While a small majority of Americans oppose repeal of the ACA, the penalty for failing to acquire health insurance is opposed by a plurality.”

TAPS is a monthly online panel survey of about 2,000 people. Panelists were recruited as a national probability sample with an address-based sampling frame.

The survey is conducted by GfK Knowledge Networks for the Weidenbaum Center. Individuals without Internet access were provided a laptop and Internet service at the expense of the Weidenbaum Center. In a typical month, about 1,700 of the panelists complete the online survey.

More information is available at taps.wustl.edu.

Researchers Find Improved Preventive Care From Obamacare Medicaid Expansion

Medicaid proponents rally in Ohio (Credit: Columbus Dispatch)

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — More Americans are taking steps to prevent disease because of the insurance expansions of the Affordable Care Act, according to a new, groundbreaking study by Indiana University and Cornell University researchers.

With Congress considering the future of the ACA, also known as Obamacare, this research is the first to estimate the impact of the ACA-facilitated expansions of Medicaid on preventive care and health behaviors.

Kosali Simon Photo Credit: Indiana University

Researchers Kosali Simon and Aparna Soni of Indiana University and John Cawley of Cornell University determined that low-income childless adults have benefited in numerous ways from the Medicaid expansions: They are 17 percent more likely to have health insurance, 7 percent more likely to have a personal doctor and 11 percent less likely to report that cost was a barrier to their health care. Their self-assessed health also improved, and they reported fewer days of poor health or restricted activities.

Participants were also more likely to undertake preventive care such as getting a flu vaccination, having an HIV test or visiting a dentist. The ACA mandates that health insurance plans, including Medicaid, cover these preventive services without cost-sharing.

“Our findings indicate that the Medicaid expansions under the ACA succeeded in some of their goals, but other goals remain hard to achieve,” said Simon, a health economist at IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. “More people are seeing doctors and taking steps to safeguard their health. But there’s been no detectable reduction in obesity, smoking or heavy drinking, at least through our study period.”

Conversely, there was no worsening of those risky behaviors; one might be concerned that the newly insured would be more likely to engage in risky behaviors because they now pay less out of pocket for health care. There was no evidence of this phenomenon, which economists call moral hazard, in the data.

The data for the research came from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System telephone survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state governments, through the end of 2015. Thirty states and the District of Columbia expanded Medicaid benefits in 2014.

Their article, “The Impact of Health Insurance on Preventive Care and Health Behaviors: Evidence from the First Two Years of the ACA Medicaid Expansions,” is scheduled for publication in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and is available online.

The Struggles After a Miscarriage

During pregnancy, many mothers imagine the face of their future child and start planning the ways they will raise them. After your baby’s arrival in the world you implement those plans. You nourish your child, protect it from harm and encourage it to becoming a contributing member of the society.

But sometimes, life is not that perfect. It does not turn out the way you intended it to be, and you end up losing your child, before you even get to see it alive, healthy and breathing. As reported by American Pregnancy Association as much as 25% pregnancies end up in miscarriage, in USA.  This is perhaps the most traumatic experience any mother can face. Although the father is also understandably hurt by the loss, but somehow mothers are usually the more affected of the two.  It is because the mother has been the closest to the child than the father or any other human being could ever be. The baby has been fed through the mother’s spinal cord, the same food that the woman has been eating. There is no bond closer than that.

Mothers who have lost their children can have the tendency to develop Post traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD) or Post-Partum disorder (PPD). PTSD is usually attributed with people who have had their or some dear ones’ lives threatened. It can also happen when the person’s integrity or their physical body is exposed to a risk at any event. So it is understandable if a mother who has had a miscarriage is suffering through these conditions. The woman who has had this traumatic experience is in need of support and someone to bring back her courage.

A mother who has suffered through the spontaneous abortion of the fetus can have flashbacks of the horrific experience through dreams. It can also shatter her confidence of bearing another life in her womb. There is always a fear left in the heart of women such as these that they might have to go through these type of losses again. It is the job of the people who are close to her to assure her that everything is going to be alright. She must learn to be compassionate and self-loving and not feel guilty about what happened.

Therapists can guide a grieving woman to come over the loss in a better way. It’s a therapist’s job to acknowledge that and help comfort the affected person. Spouses or parents of the woman can support her in a group session therapy to help the mother from felling uneasy. Although the Affordable Care act does not cover the insurance for such therapeutic procedures, but therapy is a necessity rather than a luxury in your case. If you don’t have enough finance for a therapist, then have your family members come as often as possible so as to talk and share anything that can help lower the sufferer’s pain.

Any person suffering through depression may have a hard time keeping their appetite. It is vital to a person’s health that they eat correctly and supply their body with proper nutrition. In this case, the spouse should be the more responsible one and keep track of their partner’s eating habits. It is true that being busy might keep a person’s mind away from grievance, but human interaction is always needed. For this reason the spouse needs to take share of the responsibilities that were required from the woman.  When working together the mother would have someone to interact with and talk to when she needs to.  If she feels too depressed, it is better for the husband to take few days off from work and spend his time with her as much as possible.

A child’s death can leave any person in a shock and have a huge emotional impact. All the mothers who have gone through this experience must know that there will always be hope for them. They must take their time to grief, but should also be able to comprehend that their life doesn’t stop there. It is also important for them to realize that they need their family’s and friends’ support as much as possible. So isolation should never be considered as an option for anyone.

Comparing Public Healthcare in the US and Europe

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Source: OECD

Since the United States is a very rich nation, many would like to believe Americans are healthier and better off with their public healthcare system compared to their European counterparts. On the contrary, when it comes to public or universal healthcare access, the US lags behind even medium-developed European countries; what more the truly advanced like the UK, France, Belgium, and Germany?

European countries have national healthcare insurance systems that cover for fundamental health conditions and basic services. While some countries provide some of these services absolutely free of charge, there are certain instances when such services will be charged with a small fee for the patient’s participation.

In France, for example, French nationals and legal residents are able to obtain public health care services at only 25 percent of the total cost. For instance, a healthcare service costs 100 Euros, French nationals will only be paying 25 Euros and the remaining 75 Euros is already shouldered by the French national health insurance system. The 25 Euros the French will pay for can also be covered by their private health insurance policy which is, surprisingly, a lot less expensive than the health insurance policies Americans have to pay for.

Is there any other benefit to living in Europe and enjoying its public health care system rather than in the US? Yes, excellent healthcare is also related to life expectancy. The better the health care received by the nationals and residents of a particular country, the longer is the life expectancy of the people of that nation. The United States has an estimated life expectancy of 79 years old as of 2016.

In Europe, the Principality of Monaco has the highest life expectancy at 89.47 years old. There are also 19 other European countries that have a life expectancy rating of more than 80 years old. These include San Marino, Andorra, Italy, Liechtenstein, France, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway, Germany, the UK, Greece, Austria, Malta, Luxembourg, and Belgium. The US ranks No. 53 exceeded by Taiwan and slightly above Bahrain.

Interestingly, Europeans particularly those who live in the European Union or the European Free Trade Association, are among those wiht the highest life expectancy. This is due in part to the unified effort of the European Economic Area to provide public healthcare access to anyone who has a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). With this card, people in European nations are able to obtain the same quality of healthcare that nationals of a particular member nation are entitled to.

This is something that is clearly missing in the US healthcare system. However, hope is not lost because the US now has the Affordable Care Act which is supposed make health insurance compulsory for everyone. Unfortunately, the fate of the limited universal public healthcare program of the US now rests on President Donald Trump and the Republican controlled Congress.

True, the US may be wealthier, and they may have the most advanced healthcare technologies but if only a few people can access these services, what’s the point? A much better model is the European system of public health care in which the US now officially recognizes as essential to the health of its citizens.

The Presidential Policy Series: Affordable Care Act

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clinched the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

In less than 18 months, the field of candidates vying to win the 2016 presidential election has narrowed from over two dozen contenders to two major opponents. Now, with fewer than two months before Election Day on November 8th (remember to vote!), we’re exploring the Republican and Democratic candidates’ positions on healthcare policy.

The Presidential Policy Series, we will share where the Democratic and Republican nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, stand on healthcare policy. In this post, we will be discussing the most divisive healthcare issue, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA, colloquially known as Obamacare, has been hotly debated for over six years. Advocates and opponents of the law often fall along party line. The law, which represents the largest regulatory change to the industry since Medicare and Medicaid were introduced in 1965, was designed to bring quality and affordable health care to everyone by transforming delivery to focus on value and expanding insurance coverage.

Budget Busting

From a party standpoint, the Republican Party platform views the plan as a “Euro-style bureaucracy to manage unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions.” Many conservatives believe it has raised insurance premiums, increased deductibles, and inflated drug prices while limiting an individual’s access to care within narrow provider networks. Republicans have long called for the law to be repealed, and Mr. Trump, despite previously expressing support for the individual insurance mandate, has fully endorsed a repeal of Obamacare.

In the Trump healthcare plan, he vows to repeal the ACA during his first day in the Oval Office and work with Congress to implement reforms that follow free market trades. He’s specifically mentioned modifying the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines, implementing health savings accounts and individual deduction for health insurance premium payments, requiring full price transparency, and letting states control Medicaid.

Rather than expanding Medicaid, Trump says he’d like to focus on policy that grows the economy and provides more jobs. As his health plan currently states, “the best social program has always been a job – and taking care of our economy will go a long way towards reducing our dependence on public health programs.”

Not Far Enough

Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, has vigorously defended the ACA and has expressed a desire to work with Congress to get legislation passed that would expand aspects of the ACA. Like most Democrats, Clinton believes the health law has been an important step toward the goal of universal health care, for which she has been a longtime advocate.

She introduced the unsuccessful Health Security Act in 1993, which was a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care to all Americans. She later helped create and pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, which now provides coverage to more than 8.4 million children.

In the Clinton healthcare plan, she vows to continue these efforts to improve healthcare access.  Clinton plans to work with governors to continue the expansion of Medicaid on the state level and enroll more eligible Americans. She wants to further enact policies that will expand access to affordable health care regardless of immigration status.

Clinton has also called for the funding of primary care services at community health centers to double over the next decade and has expressed support for President Obama’s charge to triple funding for the National Health Service Corps, the government program that aims to address physician shortage in areas around the country. To address health costs, Clinton supports authoritative action to block or modify premium increases, capping prescription drug costs, and limiting excessive out-of-pocket costs for families.

Finally, Clinton has stated that she will pursue efforts to make a “public option” of healthcare possible, and expand Medicare by allowing individuals above the age 55 being able to buy into Medicare program.

New analysis shows 2.5 million Americans currently buying individual health coverage off-Marketplace may be eligible for Affordable Care Act premium tax credits

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HHS encourages consumers to evaluate Marketplace options during upcoming Open Enrollment
Since the Affordable Care Act became law, millions of Americans gained coverage or found more affordable options thanks to premium tax credits available through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Today, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released data showing that 2.5 million Americans who currently purchase off-Marketplace individual market coverage may qualify for tax credits if they shop for 2017 coverage through the Marketplace. Six states (California, Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, and Pennsylvania) each have more than 100,000 individuals enrolled in off-Marketplace individual market coverage whose incomes may qualify them for Marketplace tax credits.

“More than 9 million Americans already receive financial assistance through the Health Insurance Marketplace to help keep coverage affordable, but today’s data show millions more Americans could benefit,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “We encourage everyone to check out their options on HealthCare.gov or their state Marketplace and see if they qualify for financial assistance. Marketplace consumers who qualify for financial assistance usually have the option to buy coverage with a premium of less than $75 per month.”

Today’s analysis estimates that about 6.9 million individuals currently purchase health insurance in the off-Marketplace individual market. Of those, about 1.9 million either have incomes that would qualify them for Medicaid or place them in the Medicaid coverage gap or are ineligible to purchase Marketplace coverage due to immigration status, while the remainder could enroll in Marketplace qualified health plans (QHPs).

Counting both Marketplace and off-Marketplace consumers, more than 70 percent of all QHP-eligible individuals currently insured through the individual market have incomes that could qualify them for tax credits. If the Marketplace-eligible uninsured are included as well, today’s analysis indicates that almost 80 percent of all Americans eligible for Marketplace coverage could qualify for tax credits based on their income.

Many consumers remain unaware of the financial assistance available to them through the Marketplace. For example, a recent Commonwealth Fund survey found that only 52 percent of uninsured adults were aware that financial assistance is available through the Marketplaces.

Tax credits available through the Marketplace are designed to both improve affordability and protect consumers from the impact of rate increases. Consumers may be eligible if their incomes are between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level (about $100,000 for a family of four). If all premiums in an area go up, the large majority of Marketplace consumers will not have to pay more because tax credits will increase in parallel. A recent HHS analysis – PDF found that, in a hypothetical scenario where all 2017 rates increased by 25 percent, 73 percent of current Marketplace consumers would be able to purchase coverage for less than $75 per month thanks to tax credits.

During the upcoming Open Enrollment, HHS will be placing new emphasis on making sure people currently buying individual market coverage off-Marketplace know their options. For example:

For the first time, our decisions about where to target our outreach efforts – from regional TV and radio to search and digital marketing – will be based in part on where we can reach these consumers, supplementing our continued use of data to target the remaining uninsured.
We are strengthening our relationships with agents and brokers. Agents and brokers are a critical channel for reaching off-Marketplace consumers, who often purchase coverage with the help of an agent or broker. Changes this year, such as offering agents and brokers new Marketplace training tools and faster registration, will make it easier for agents and brokers to enroll people in Marketplace plans. Improvements to agent and broker education and resources will ensure that they and their customers know all their options.

We are working with issuers to provide consumers with more and better information about the Marketplace. This includes updating standard notices to make them shorter, simpler, and more user friendly.

We are making it easier for issuers to facilitate transitions from a parents’ plan into the Marketplace. Specifically, recent guidance from the Department of Labor makes clear that the sponsors of employer plans can – and are encouraged to – provide additional information that will help young adults understand their options and enroll in Marketplace coverage as appropriate.

To read today’s brief, visit: https://aspe.hhs.gov/pdf-report/people-who-currently-buy-individual-market-coverage-could-be-eligible-aca-subsidies

Wilhemina’s War: Women of Color with HIV/AIDS in Rural South Carolina

Wilhemina’s War first aired on February 29th, 2016, and the film chronicles the trials and tribulations of family matriarch Wilhemina Dixon, her daughter Toni who is HIV positive, and granddaughter Dayshal who contracted HIV at birth. Filmed over a period of five years from 2009 to 2014, the feature highlights the stages of caring for loved ones with HIV/AIDS using limited resources. Despite working odd jobs to keep the family afloat, Wilhemina pours her spirit into encouraging her daughter and granddaughter to survive.

This intimate look into the daily life of women of color with HIV in rural South Carolina along with the social and political barriers they faced adds to the appeal of this 55 minute docudrama. Every person in the film whether it be the survivor, activist, social worker, politician, pastor, or resident-is impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Cassandra Lizaire, author of “S. Carolina’s Haley Slams Door on HIV Prevention”, stated that, “Wilhemina Dixon knows this devastation well. A 64 year-old great-grandmother living in the dusty backroads of Barnwell, S.C., she spends her mornings in the field picking peas before the onslaught of the midday sun. Her odd jobs provide for her family of six and she takes pride in making an earnest living. Afterwards, as she sits in the shade of her porch, far removed from the political machinations, I imagine Dixon thinks of her daughter Toni who died of AIDS last year [2011] and ponders the future of her granddaughter Dayshal, who was born with the virus.”

“In South Carolina, we are ranked eighth in the nation in the rate of AIDS. Eighty percent of all women in South Carolina living with HIV/AIDS is black. Eighty percent of all children living with HIV are black. Seventy-three percent of all men living with HIV are black. This is a black epidemic for all practical purposes,” clarified Vivian Clark-Armstead, South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council member in the film, “Wilhemina’s War.

June Cross, in the article “June Cross Tells the Story of a Family Fighting HIV in South Carolina”, chose to develop this documentary to raise consciousness and dispel myths about HIV/AIDS among African Americans in the rural South.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • In 2009, the highest number of adults and adolescents living with an AIDS diagnosis resided in the Southern part of the United States.
  • In 2010, in the South, the Northeast, and the Midwest, blacks accounted for the largest number of AIDS diagnoses.
  • At the end of 2010, the South accounted for 45% of the approximately 33,015 new AIDS diagnoses in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, followed by the Northeast (24%), the West (19%), and the Midwest (13%).
  • In 2013, an estimated 776 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV in South Carolina. South Carolina ranked 17th among the 50 states in the number of HIV diagnoses in 2013.
  • In 2014, 44% (19,540) of estimated new HIV diagnoses in the United States were among African Americans, who comprise 12% of the US population.
  • In 2014, an estimated 48% (10,045) of those diagnosed with AIDS in the United States were African Americans. By the end of 2014, 42% (504,354) of those ever diagnosed with AIDS were African Americans.

The CDC implies that knowledge of the regions where HIV and AIDS have the greatest impact, informs the equitable distribution of resources for prevention and education in those areas. The CDC also suggests that its approach to the HIV crisis is driven by the 2010 National HIV/AIDS Strategy introduced by President Obama. The four main tenets of the strategy are to: lower the infection rate, expand healthcare availability and improve the quality of life for those who are HIV positive, lower HIV-related health inequalities, and attain a more organized federal approach to the HIV crisis.

However, Lisa Ko asserts in her article titled, “African Americans Hit Hardest by HIV in the South” that, “As seen in Wilhemina’s War…Governor Nikki Haley’s rejection of billions of federal dollars through the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cutting of $3 million in AIDS prevention and drug assistance programs has resulted in substandard or nonexistent health services, medication, and medical care.” Wilhelmina’s War brings these statistics to life as it exposes the social and political obstacles Wilhelmina and her family encounter while inspiring the audience to advocate for collective change. Wilhelmina’s War can be accessed through the PBS.org website.

To assist the Dixon family and others with HIV in the rural South, June Cross shares the following ways to get involved:

  • Cross has established a GoFundMe page for Dayshal Dicks.
  • Cross suggests that organizations involved with the #BlackLivesMatter movement and other social justice efforts connect with local HIV advocates.
  • Finally, making financial contributions to HIV foundations to help them continue their community outreach.

In my previous experience working with HIV positive clients in a residential setting, my goal was to promote a safe, drug and alcohol-free community living environment. As residents, clients could access intensive case management, group and individual counseling, and intensive outpatient addiction treatment for up to two years.  During this period, most clients were empowered to acquire and sustain permanent housing. I learned that the best thing I could do for these clients was to show empathy and treat them how I would want to be treated. The only difference between me and them was time and circumstance.

I encourage social work students, practitioners, other helping professionals, and community activists to watch Wilhemina’s War to increase awareness about the status of the HIV/AIDS crisis in the rural South.

Department of Health and Human Services Plan to Invest 157 Million into Social Work

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Can social workers’ knowledge of health-related issues be useful in achieving better health outcomes?  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) thinks so, and it will provide up to $157 million in funding to 44 bridge organizations over a five-year period to determine how effective these organizations are in connecting consumers of clinical services with social service agencies addressing issues related to clients’ wellbeing.  Funding for the Accountable Health Communities Model will be provided through the Affordable Care Act to assess the efficacy of social work interventions addressing social determinants of health and well as clinical practice.

The federal government’s interest in the social determinants of health was underscored at the 2013 White House briefing hosted by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE) entitled: Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in a New Era: The Role of Social Work Education. The focus of the briefing was the need to prepare the next generation of social workers for healthcare reform spurred by the Affordable Care Act’s emphasis on integrative healthcare models.

One panel on New Expectations for Health Care focused on what the new era of health care will look like with respect to integrated care, interprofessional health care teams, and consideration of social determinants of health.  Panelists emphasized the importance of linkages and connectors between the community and health care providers and the value of social workers in making those connections.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will implement and test a three-track model of service delivery.  The first track (Track 1 Awareness) will focus on a participating organization working to increase awareness among community residents through referrals and information dissemination.  Track 2 (Assistance) will rely on navigators to actively assist high-risk resident in connecting with available resources in the community.

The third track (Track 3 Alignment) will involve organizations working to align community partners to ensure services are beneficial and accessible to community residents.  Funds are not allowed to be spent of the services required by consumers.  CMS will award 44 cooperative agreements ranging from $1 million for a Track 1 initiative to $3.5 million for a Track 3 initiative.

All participating organizations are expected to identify and partner with clinical delivery sites (CDS).  They must conduct comprehensive social needs screenings, make referrals for eligible Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and connect community residents with specific unmet health-related social needs to community service providers that might be able to address those needs.

Track 3 organizations must also align effective partners to maximize community capacity to address health-related social needs in the core areas of housing instability and quality, food insecurity, utilities, interpersonal violence and transportation shortages.  Applicants will partner with state Medicaid agencies, clinical delivery sites, and community service providers and are responsible for coordinating community efforts to improve linkage between clinical care and community services.

Eligible applicants include community-based organizations, healthcare provider practices, hospitals and health systems, institutions of higher education, local government entities, tribal organizations and for-profit and not-for-profit local and national entities from all 50 states, U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia.  CMS will award renewable one-year cooperative agreements to successful applicants.

Organizations may apply for funding in one or two tracks, but will be selected to participate in a single track only that will run for a five-year period.  Detailed information about the various track can be obtained from the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA).  Interested organizations have until February 8 to submit and non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI).  CMS will be accepting applications until March 31, 2016.

Questions about the model and applications can be submitted toAccountableHealthCommunities@cms.hhs.gov. Interested parties can register for a January 27 webinar on the application process.

Opportunities for Social Workers Expand Under Obamacare

Millions of Americans breathed sighs of relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s decision to leave in place subsidies in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for the insured in states where the federal government created the marketplace exchanges. Six of the nine justices believed it was Congress’s intention to provide a healthcare system that would cover as many Americans as possible. Among those waiting to exhale were social workers who are a critical component in the reformation of the healthcare system under the ACA.

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President Obama reacts to hearing news of the Supreme Court’s decision (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama celebrated the validation of his signature legislative accomplishment with his closest staff. Conservatives were appalled by the decision that—for all intents and purposes—institutionalizes a system they derisively named and now is commonly known as Obamacare.

Most Americans know the law for providing healthcare insurance for millions more Americans through affordable premiums and expanded Medicaid. On a larger scale, the ACA is transforming the entire way we look at health and healthcare.

While discussing social workers involvement in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare system with Dr. Darla Spence Coffey, President and CEO of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), she pointed out that since the enactment of the ACA the focus of health and healthcare has moved from individualized medical care to an integrated model that includes behavioral health as well as primary care while factoring in social determinants of health.

This is social work’s approach to healthy living that takes into account the biopsychosocial and spiritual dimensions of human existence. As a result of the new direction for healthcare, there is a greater appreciation of the value social workers bring to the process.

CSWE and the National Association of Social Work (NASW) are partnering on a number of initiatives that will expand social work in healthcare settings. One that includes the Society for Leadership Social Work Leadership in Health Care (SSWLHC) is an agreement with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to train Certified Application Counselors (CACs) to enroll the millions of Americans eligible for healthcare insurance who have not yet signed up. Another initiative funded by the New York Community Trust called Social Work HEALS: Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars Program, provides scholarships for social work students at 10 universities.

Social workers are receiving training through the Health Resources Services Administration’s (HRSA) $26.7 million Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training for Professionals program. Sixty-two schools of social work received $19 million of the funding that will allow about one-fourth of accredited MSW programs to provide scholarships to 4000 students at $10,000 each over the next three years. Additionally, CSWE’s Gero-Ed Center presented a series of five webinars on opportunities for social workers under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Coffey says the shift to more integrated healthcare service delivery has spurred greater interest in inter-professional education. CSWE’s annual survey which will be released soon, found that 40 of the 223 masters programs that offer joint degrees reported having a MSW/MPH dual degree option. She reports the number of students specializing or pursuing a concentration in healthcare is on a steady incline. The health and integrated health field setting is the second most common setting after mental health. The health/integrative health and mental health setting for baccalaureate students is now the fifth most populated setting—moving up from sixth last year with 400 more students reported for that setting.

Social workers are regaining influence in discharge planning in hospitals as the determinants of health are understood to be more than a menu list of medications and activities. “There is a greater appreciation for social workers in hospital settings,” Dr. Coffey explained, “because hospitals will be penalized for excessive readmissions under the Affordable Care Act.” The ACA contains a provision that reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with higher readmission rates. Having social workers involved in case management and discharge planning should help reduce the number of readmissions.

The demand for medical or healthcare social workers has increased dramatically. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of social workers is expected to rise by 19 percent between 2012 and 2022, greater than the average of all other occupations combined. While BLS puts the average salary for social workers at $44,200 (2012) annually, they report the average annual salary for healthcare social workers as $53,590 (2013) with some states paying significantly higher wages.

Driving this demand is the aging of baby boomers and the expansion of healthcare by the ACA. Now that Obamacare will remain the law of the land, social workers will play a major role in the transformation of the nation’s healthcare.

Mental Health Advocacy Must Remain A Top Priority

Heading

As of 2013, May is officially mental health month which was set in motion by President Obama, and it has made a huge impact in only a couple of years. This movement has caused other public figures to jump on board to help raise awareness to combat the stigmas associated with seeking treatment. Advocating for mental health awareness is a mindset that we all should aspire to follow.

Although mental health awareness month is officially over, we must be diligent throughout the year in creating awareness on mental illness. Mental health stigmas are a real problem, and they still exist all over the world. In America alone, there are about 8 million people suffering from severe mental illnesses and only around half of those are treated.

But why should we fight these mental health stigmas?

Fear of discrimination and the attached stigmas often keep sufferers and their families from facing their mental health problems. This deters them from seeking help, which is very problematic. Mental health is just as important as physical health.  Additionally, access to mental health treatment and insurance coverage can also be a barrier to seeking treatment. Mental health treatment should be viewed similarly to how physical ailments are addressed because the two are often times entwined.

Fortunately, as awareness of mental health issues spreads and stigmas recede, more and more medical professionals are choosing careers in mental health. We are learning more about the benefits of helping people care for their mental health, including longer life expectancy, increased productivity, improved financial stability, and happier personal lives. As a result, public and private organizations are recognizing the importance of providing access to affordable mental health care. In the U.S., this progress is evident in the inclusion of mental health care coverage requirements in the Affordable Care Act. Read More

What can we do to combat these backwards beliefs?

Simply put, we need to advocate for change. If someone refers to a person with a mental illness as ‘crazy’ or ‘insane’ it is completely justifiable to point out that it is not alright to use such shaming language. It is important to question how using those kinds of harsh words can segue into negativity and generalizations that are frankly not true.

Online communities such as BringChange2Mind and StigmaFighters offer those struggling with mental problems a judgment-free outlet for taking the steps towards acceptance of themselves and overall wellness. Although May is over, advocating for mental health equality must remain a top priority. We all deserve to live happily and feel healthy.

Be a voice of reason by advocating mental health all year-long and you will make the world a much better place for literally millions.

Will the Supreme Court Deal a Fatal Blow to ObamaCare?

obamacare-29

All eyes are on Republicans gaining control of the Senate and affirming their commitment to repealing the Affordable Care Act as known as ObamaCare. However, the decision by four Supreme Court justices to hear arguments in King v. Burwell challenging premium subsidies on healthcare exchanges operated by the federal government could deal a blow to the ACA if the Supreme Court rules against the subsidies. The Internal Revenue Service provides subsidies in the form of tax credits to consumers purchasing health insurance under the Affordable Care Act whose incomes are below 400 percent of the poverty threshold. However, opponents of the law say that wording in the ACA stipulates that these subsidies can only be provided to consumers purchasing health insurance on exchanges “established by states” and that they are not available to people purchasing health insurance on federally managed exchanges.

To date, 13 states and the District of Columbia have established their own exchanges. There are an additional 18 states that have established exchanges in some form of partnership with the federal government. The remaining 19 states are those who have refused to participate in the process and have exchanges run exclusively by the federal government. Much is at stake. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) 86 percent of people enrolled through federally operated exchanges rely on the subsidies to reduce their premiums to an affordable level. The Urban Institute estimates 7.3 million people could lose $36.1 billion in subsidies if the Supreme Court strikes them down.

The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the case surprised many because traditionally the Court will only take up a case if there is a split on the issue at the Circuit Court level. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the legality of the subsidies for federally managed exchanges in its ruling in King v. Burwell. However, in another challenge, Halbig v. Burwell, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled against the use of the subsidies. Judge A. Raymond Randolph, appointed by President George H. W. Bush in 1990, and Judge Thomas B. Griffith, appointed by President George W. Bush, voted against the subsidies.

Judge Harry Edwards, appointed by President Jimmy Carter, voted to uphold the subsidies. At the request of the Obama Administration, the full court agreed to revisit the decision. With seven of the 11 authorized judges currently on the court appointed by Presidents Clinton and Obama, it seems likely the full court would support the subsidies effectively eliminating the split. The Supreme Court however decided to revisit King, despite the Obama Administration’s request that it wait for the decision by the full D.C. Circuit Court.

Hardline conservatives saw last week’s evisceration of Democrats during the midterm elections as a fatal blow to Barack Obama’s presidency. They believe he is a lame duck who is weakened both domestically and internationally. They see the Affordable Care Act, which they derisively coined as “Obamacare”, as his only significant legislative accomplishment and it sticks in their collective craw. Although the law remains unpopular with 53 percent of respondents in the Gallup Poll having a negative view of the ACA while 41 percent views the law favorably, it is losing ground as an important concern for the public. According to exit polls most voters in the 2014 midterm election—59 percent—said their vote had nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act compared to 28 percent who cast ballots to express displeasure with the law. During the 2010 midterms 45 percent said they cast their ballots as an expression of their displeasure with the law.

Doomsday forecasts about the Supreme Court’s ruling on subsidies in the Affordable Care Act may very well be overblown. Over at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth—my favorite blog by the way—economist Brad DeLong says even if the Supreme Court rules against federal subsidies, conservatives may not get the results they desire. He believes the 31 states with either state-run exchanges or working in partnership with the federal government will largely be unaffected. He wonders if politicians in the 19 states with exchanges solely operated by the feds will be willing to deny their middle class residents nearly $40 billion in subsidies to purchase health care insurance.

I believe the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. Republicans will waste their time and taxpayers’ money on fruitless attempts to repeal the law knowing full well a law repealing the ACA cannot get past the President’s veto pen and may not get out of the Senate without relying on budget reconciliation as a strategy which is a recipe for disaster. Then imagine what Republicans would do if they could repeal the Affordable Care Act. They have no credible idea about what they would do to replace it.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and Preventative Health for Women

 

diverse-group-of-womenThere are several elements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that will majorly impact our healthcare system, but one of the most important new provisions is preventative measures for women’s healthcare.  Although certain preventative measures are allowed under the ACA, there are still certain employers who are exempt when it comes to providing contraceptive coverage in their healthcare plans. However, there are plenty of measures that are covered under the plan and will truly benefit women all over the country including well woman exams, breast exams, STI & HIV screenings and counseling and screening and counseling for domestic violence. These types of preventative measures can only provide positive results for women with health insurance.

I can’t help but think about the millions of Americans without health insurance and the women who will not benefit from these services. Breast cancer is the 2nd most common cancer death in women after lung cancer. Over 200,000 women get diagnosed annually and 40,000 die. Early detection can reduce the chances of getting breast cancer and having preventative screenings included in the ACA can reduce the number of women dying due to breast cancer.

STI and HIV Counseling and Screenings

According to the Guttmacher institute, 19 million new sexully transmitted infections (STI) are reported annually and half of these are among 15-24- year olds. It is estimated that 65 million Americans have a viral STI, with the most common one being genital herpes and it is not curable. Most STIs have no symptoms and can be very hard to detect with a doctor’s visit and many people have no idea they are infected with an STI. Some of these STIs, when left untreated, can lead to more serious illnesses such as pelvic inflammatory disease and cervical cancer. Having access to STI and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) counseling and screenings included in the ACA is extremely important.

In the United States, we have varied opinions on sex, but the reality is our population is not retarding in growth. Sex can be as basic a desire as water, food and oxygen for some Americans. Evidence based research has uncovered that many Americans, especially younger adults and adolescents, do not have access to the factual information about STIs and HIV. In our media, we constantly glorify sex and adolescents are exposed to several television programs that include casual sex with multiple partners.

However, comprehensive sexual health education is not a standard in our country’s public schools. The ACA includes education and information about STIs and HIV, but the hard part is getting people to go to the doctor for this information. With the ACA enacted, there is an opportunity to start encouraging Americans to get annual screenings and to obtain prevention care in order to educate themselves on these issues.

Domestic Violence

One in four women will experience some type of domestic violence in their lifetime, and it is estimated that one-third of female homicide victims that police records have reports of are killed by their intimate partner. This is unbelievable and unacceptable to me. Domestic violence, rape, and sexual violence need to be brought to the forefront of Americans minds. This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed and I believe should be taught in schools along with sexual health information. The fact that the ACA covers screenings and counseling is incredible and this needs to be known. Women may not even know that their health insurance covers these types of things.

Family Planning

This brings me back to the ACA exemptions where certain employers are not required to provide contraceptive counseling and prescriptions. If employers, even those with religious beliefs do not support contraception, want a diverse body of people to be employed at their organization, they need to provide diverse healthcare plans that not only include basic health care, but specific healthcare pertaining to women including contraceptive coverage. It is estimated that nearly 99% of all women have used some sort of contraceptive method in this country.

Birth control can prevent unplanned pregnancies and abortions which saves our country money. Not all women want kids, so having these options are vital to their healthcare plans. Overpopulation is our number one social problem in this country, and it leads to many other issues including water shortages, food shortages and a large population of children being placed into foster homes or adoption agencies because of unplanned pregnancies. Having birth control be easily available and affordable will go a long ways toward prevention.

Income Inequality

Additionally, we must touch on is the gap between the rich and poor and how hard it is for millions of Americans to even obtain affordable health insurance. The ACA is a large step towards providing healthcare to the uninsured in our country, but it needs to be expanded further. It’s not perfect and many Americans are being caught in the Medicaid gap where they don’t make enough money to qualify for subsidy, yet they are in a State which refuses to expand Medicaid. If more Americans can received annual checkups and screenings, many may be able to identify and access preventive care to prolong life. Right now, it seems that the majority of Americans only go to the doctor when it is an emergency which needs to change.

Preventative healthcare is one of our country’s solution to address our nation’s growing healthcare problems. Hopefully, the ACA will lead to more systematic healthcare reforms in order to change the ways our country handles health issues and social problems. Feel free to share this with organizations that work with adolescents, schools, sexual health clinics, etc.. BeYouBeHealthy.org 

Does Obamacare Benefit Baby Boomers?

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are changing the definition of what it means to grow old. Baby boomers don’t want aging services the same way their parents did, boomers don’t want senior centers and adult day care centers, they want wellness centers and spas. They don’t want to be isolated in nursing homes, they want to live in active communities. They don’t want to stay home and watch Gunsmoke reruns in their moo moo, they want to go out dancing in high heels wearing Gucci. Boomers are spearheading the movement to age in place and our health care policies are following.

Obama_healthcare_signatureThe health home model of service delivery in section 2703 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the most recent federal initiative promoting integrated health care and aging in place. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (H. R. 3590) is a federal policy that signed into law by President Obama in 2010, also referred to as Obamacare.

Section 2703 of the Affordable Care Act authorized states to develop a system of coordinated care through a health home. The health home facilitates access and coordination of health services through home health care, including primary health care, behavioral health care, and community-based services for Medicaid recipients with a chronic condition.

Health homes are of particular importance to older adults since the passage of the Affordable Care Act means reducing health disparities for older adults. For example, the barriers that prevent screening and assessment, and treatment among all older adults have a larger greater impact on homebound older adults due to transportation issues, handicapped accessibility, and isolation. Homebound older adults have greater physical health issues, and therefore, seeking treatment for chronic health conditions presents a significant barrier.

The passage of the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, brought increasing recognition of the need to consider the totality of an individual’s health and health care. This means fostering overall health and wellness by promoting the integration of behavioral health (mental health and substance abuse) and primary health care to increase access to affordable and effective integrated health care, treatment, and recovery support services.  Within this context, now is a perfect opportunity to engage stakeholders and partners to embrace recovery and all of its dimensions.

However, as the baby boomers redefine what it means to be “elderly” or “senior”, what will this new healthcare system look like for older adults? The home health model is an idea that promotes aging in place. It hasn’t been researched fully to know the benefits of this system. More research needs to be done, but what do you think, is the home health model truly of benefit to older Americans?

For more posts like this, follow me on Twitter @karenwhiteman

Social Work White House Briefing Presentations Now Available

As previously reported, Council for Social Work Education joined with the White House Office of Public Engagement on September 25 in hosting the White House briefing “Addressing the Social Determinants of Health in a New Era: The Role of Social Work Education.”

Presentations from the event are now available. Follow the links below to access the presentations of a number of Obama administration officials:

White House Briefing
Aaron Bishop and Roslyn Holliday

Roslyn Holliday Moore, MS, Office of Behavioral Health Equity, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF) 

Aaron Bishop, MSSW, Deputy Commissioner, Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Administration for Community Living, HHS

Data used for prepared remarks:

•         Visualizing Health Policy (Kaiser Family Foundation)

•         Americans With Disabilities 2010 (Census Bureau)

•         Census and Disability (Census Bureau)

The New Expectations of Health Care

Stephane Philogene, PhD, Associate Director, Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, National Institutes of Health, HHS

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

A National Dialogue on Mental Health

Brian Altman, JD, Legislative Director, and Paolo del Vecchio, MSW, Director, Center for Mental Health Services, SAMHSA, HHS

  • PowerPoint Slides (PDF)

Building Workforce Capacity to Meet the Need

Marcia K. Brand, PhD, Deputy Administrator, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HHS

[gview file=”https://swhelper.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Panel4-SocialWorkWHBriefingslidesbrand.pdf”]

Source: Council for Social Work Education

Press Release: Social Work Helper Magazine was not involved in the creation of this content.

University Decision to End Partnership over Reproductive Rights May Have Bigger Implications

Dean Will Rainford
Dean Will Rainford

In a recent decision, School of Social Work Dean, William C. Rainford, at Catholic University of America (CUA) issued a statement ending a long-standing partnership with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) because of its support for women’s reproductive rights.

According to the university’s website, Dean Rainford was appointed to lead the School of Social Work in June 2013, and his biographical information states that he is nationally recognized as a social justice advocate. This major change in University policy comes less than three months after Dean Rainford’s appointment.

Many social work students have taken to twitter to express their outrage for the decision. However, an on campus student social work group, NCSSS Action, reached out to the Chronicle of Social Change to go on record about their opposition to the new policy. According to the group’s organizer Andy Bowen,

“The other students and I are still coalescing around strategy and action, but we won’t go quietly into the night here,” said NCSSS Action organizer Andy Bowen, in an e-mail to The Chronicle of Social Change. Will Rainford, who in April of 2013 was named dean of the National Catholic School of Social Service (NCSSS), informed students in a recent letter that he will “no longer allow NCSSS to officially partner or collaborate with NASW.” The reason, he said, is “based solely on NASW’s overt public position that social workers should advocate for access to abortions.” Read More

The timing of this decision is surprising especially when NASW has been on record about its support for reproductive rights as early as 2004. According to the NASW website in its activities, projects, and research section, it states:

  • Healthy Families, Strong Communities is an NASW project funded by the United Nations Foundation to engage the U.S. and the broader international community in the strengthening of maternal health and reproductive health.
  • Human Rights Update on Social Workers Addressing the Rights of Women and Girls Worldwide through MDG5 (10/8/2010 pdf)
  • NASW Policy Statement on Family Planning and Reproductive Health – appears in Social Work Speaks, a compilation of over 60 NASW policy statements on social work-related issues.
  • Female Genital Cutting – an NASW research page focusing on the practice of female genital cutting, otherwise referred to as female genital mutilation or female circumcision.
  • March for Women’s Lives – a 2004 rally co-sponsored by NASW for women’s reproductive rights.

Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, women’s reproductive rights have been an area of contention for conservative and religious groups. In several Red States, such as Texas and North Carolina, Republican led legislatures have begun passing some of the most restrictive laws limiting women’s reproductive rights and women’s ability to gain access to preventative care.

In 2012, Catholic University of America joined a lawsuit with Wheaton College asserting the Affordable Care Act is a violation of the school’s religious liberty. During the conference call, Wheaton College President Dr. Phillip Graham Ryken and The Catholic University of America’s president John Garvey stressed their schools’ alignment on pro-life beliefs according to the Huffington Post.

This major policy shift by the university’s School of Social Work does not align with the mission and values of a social work education. The role of a social worker is to help a client who is in crisis or help them improve their outcomes through intervention. As a social worker, if you can not set aside your personal beliefs to provide a client all necessary information to make an informed decision, you are ethically obligated to refer them to someone who can.

If the logic of this university is accepted and applicable to make policy decisions based on religious beliefs, what prevents it from teaching future social workers the tenets modeled as it relates to members of the LGBT community or women seeking health care advice? What prevents any religion from making policy decisions based on ideology to be enforced on a minority group? In my opinion, CUA’s shift in policy is in direct conflict with the Council for Social Work Education’s Educational Policy and Accreditation Standards (EPAS). If institutions are modelling practices and instituting policies in violation of accreditation standards, should the institution retain its accreditation?

In EPAS section 2.1.4, Engage Diversity and Difference in Practice states:

Social workers appreciate that, as a consequence of difference, a person’s life experiences may include oppression, poverty, marginalization, and alienation as well as privilege, power, and acclaim. Social workers

  •  recognize the extent to which a culture’s structures and values may oppress, marginalize, alienate, or create or enhance privilege and power;
  • gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups;
  • recognize and communicate their understanding of the importance of difference in shaping life experiences; and
  • view themselves as learners and engage those with whom they work as informants.

The website for the commission and board who oversees the accreditation for schools of social work can be found at http://www.cswe.org/About/governance/CommissionsCouncils/CommissiononAccreditation.aspx. Additionally, if any students at CUA would like to be interviewed, I can be reached at deona@socialworkhelper.com or at @swhelpercom.

You can view all of the Council for Social Work Education’s educational policies and accreditation standards as adopted here.

 

Cover Photo: Courtesy of Catholic News Agency

Obamacare Website is Now Prepared For High Traffic Demands

Apple-Store-Line

When Apple releases a new iPhone or iOS version, a consumer can expect long lines, wait times, and some bug fixes in the future. Why should it be different for the product roll out for Obamacare? On October 1st at 12:01 AM, the Affordable Health Care Act went into full implementation where Americans could begin signing up for healthcare plans using the federal exchanges. Massive traffic flocked to Healthcare.gov which could not handle the surge by 7 AM over one million viewers had visited the site. As a result, the uninsured was force to continue in their wait for answers.

According to USA Today,

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park said the government expected HealthCare.gov to draw 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users, but instead it has drawn as many as 250,000 at a time since it launched Oct. 1.

Park’s comments are the administration’s most detailed explanation for the glitches that have frustrated millions of consumers who have tried to enter the site or complete applications for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

“These bugs were functions of volume,” Park said. “Take away the volume and it works.”

The administration built the site’s capacity based partly on the all-time high of 30,000 simultaneous users for Medicare.gov, an existing site where senior citizens can buy or renew prescription-drug plans under Medicare Part D, Park said. Its theoretical maximum capacity hasn’t been disclosed.  Read Full Article

Since the launch, many experts believe the high traffic demands to Healthcare.gov is people seeking information about the new healthcare law as result of misinformation being promoted by those who oppose full implementation. However, there are many sources out there working to provide correct information. The website Addicting Info did a comprehensive article tackling Obamacare myths.

There’s a lot of hype going around about ObamaCare, and by now you are probably getting mixed information about what the law actually is and how it will affect you.  The purpose of this post is to lay out the basic facts in plain English so you know exactly what to expect as this reform takes effect over the next few years.  However, before we get started, allow me to clarify a few very important things about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “ObamaCare.”

  • ObamaCare will not use your tax dollars to fund abortions

  • ObamaCare is not and will not lead to a government takeover of health care

  • ObamaCare will not increase the national debt or deficit

  • ObamaCare does not hurt health insurance companies, but actually increases their business

  • ObamaCare is not unconstitutional

  • ObamaCare is not  socialism

    Read More

Healthcare.gov was taken offline over the weekend in order to increase its load capacity as well as improve some design flaws. If you tried last week and was deterred by the inability to sign up, don’t give up and try again.

The Department of Health and Human Services have put together videos, webinars, tool kits, and state by state fact sheets to help you better understand the changes being implemented. View all resources using this link: .

Government Shutdown: Why Can’t the White House and Congress Get Along?

US Capitol

I have found that negotiation and mediation are advocacy tools that successful social workers use to bring about change within individual client systems as well as in policy making. Social workers sometime use creative advocacy techniques that may extend beyond traditional channels in order to protect their clients from harm while balancing organizational policies and procedures that often restrict their ability to do their jobs.  

The government shutdown over funding the Affordable Health Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, reminds me that strong advocacy is often adversarial and can have negative consequences. What happened to using negotiation and mediation as advocacy tools?  While there are many benefits to Obamacare, few would dispute there is much opposition to the law and full implementation. Mediation is a viable and evidenced-based process for resolving disputes peacefully and collaboratively.  Why take the American people hostage?

Perhaps it’s time for each of us to become mediators. I would like to ask everyone who reads this column to become an armchair mediator with a fair and impartial in examining the government shutdown dispute. Before we can assume the role of armchair mediators, we must first put aside our political affiliations as well as our position on Obamacare to be objective in the matter.  We need to honestly ask each of the parties  “What if you are absolutely right, where do we go from here?”

A mediator would ensure all stakeholders, not just the loudest voices, at the table were heard. The politician, the everyman…Mediators ask difficult questions: for example, where is the opportunity for common ground and how do we respectfully acknowledge opposing points of view?  Read More

In my inaugural column for the Social Worker Helper, my hope is to share my expertise as a mediator  for over 30 years and highlight the use of mediation and negotiation as advocacy tools.  All opinions are valued.

Which Is Better Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act

Last time I checked, Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act was the same thing. However, Jimmy Kimmel was able to show that some Americans love the Affordable Care Act, but they hate Obamacare because it forces people to buy health insurance. In a segment where Jimmy hits the streets, he quizzes random pedestrians on current news worthy events, and the responses he often receives are quite hilarious. According to Yahoo News:

A recent CNBC poll found 46 percent of respondents said they are opposed to Obamacare. But only 37 percent of the same people taking part in the poll say they oppose the Affordable Care Act.

“I just think there’s a lot of holes in it and that it needs to be revamped. I just think it hasn’t been thought out,” one person says when asked why she doesn’t like Obamacare. When asked about the Affordable Care Act, she responds, “It’s better but I’m not happy with that, either.”

“Just the name says it all,” adds another man, who said he’d sign up for the Affordable Care Act but not Obamacare.  Read More

After the government shutdown on midnight October 1st, Obamacare immediately went into effect at 12:01 AM. Although the healthcare.gov website for signing up with the exchanges experienced some glitches, 1 million people had logged onto the website before 7AM. By noon, over 2.8 million people were looking to get quotes on a new healthcare plan. Despite the website’s launch getting off to a rocky start, there sure are a lot of people interested in Obamacare.

The Department of Health and Human Services have put together videos, webinars, tool kits, state by state fact sheets to help you better understand the changes being implemented. View all resources using this link: http://www.hhs.gov/opa/affordable-care-act/index.html

Tea Party Dominance Causes Government Shutdown

government shutdownIt is shortly after midnight, and a government shutdown is now reality. Republicans have refused to pass a budget or continuing resolution unless Democrats agree to defund or further limit Obamacare which has led to the first government shutdown in 17 years. It appears Texas Senator, Ted Cruz, is leading tea party Republicans in their disdain for Obamacare. However, their efforts have done nothing to prevent full implementation of the Affordable Care Act which also went into effect at 12:01AM.

Hours before the government shutdown, President Obama signed a bill that would ensure military personnel would not be affected. Unfortunately, the government shutdown will affect over 800,000 federal employees who are not considered essential employees. President Obama recorded a video message to our troops which can be viewed below:

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/75834646[/vimeo]

You can read the full text of the President’s speech below:

Hi everybody. As President and your Commander in Chief, I’ve worked to make sure you have the strategy, the resources and the support you need to complete the missions our nation asks of you. Every time, you’ve met your responsibilities and performed with extraordinary professionalism, skill and courage. Unfortunately, Congress has not fulfilled its responsibility. It has failed to pass a budget and, as a result, much of our government must now shut down until Congress funds it again. Secretary Hagel, General Dempsey and your commanders will have more information about how this affects you and your families. Today, I want to speak directly to you about what happens next. Those of you in uniform will remain on your normal duty status. The threats to our national security have not changed, and we need you to be ready for any contingency. Ongoing military operations—like our efforts in Afghanistan—will continue. If you’re serving in harm’s way, we’re going to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your missions. Congress has passed, and I am signing into law, legislation to make sure you get your paychecks on time. And we’ll continue working to address any impact this shutdown has on you and your families.

To all our DOD civilians—I know the days ahead could mean more uncertainty, including possible furloughs. And I know this comes on top of the furloughs that many of you already endured this summer. You and your families deserve better than the dysfunction we’re seeing in Congress. Your talents and dedication help keep our military the best in the world. That’s why I’ll keep working to get Congress to reopen our government and get you back to work as soon as possible.

Finally, I know this shutdown occurs against the background of broader changes. The war in Iraq is over. The war in Afghanistan will end next year. After more than a decade of unprecedented operations, we are moving off a war footing. Yes, our military will be leaner, and as a nation we face difficult budget choices going forward.

But here’s what I want you to know. I’m going to keep fighting to get rid of those across-the-board budget cuts—the sequester—which are hurting our military and our economy. We need a responsible approach that deals with our fiscal challenges and keeps our military and our economy strong. And I’m going to make sure you stay the greatest military in the world—bar none. That’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what you and your families deserve.

On behalf of the American people, thank you for your service, which keeps us free. And thank you for your sacrifice, which keeps our nation – and our military – the greatest force for freedom that the world has ever known. God bless you and your families, and God bless the United States of America.

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