Friday, August 3, 2012

Ground Breaking Happenings with Health / Payment Reform in MA

Looks like the Massachusetts Legislature did it again, passing the first State health and payment reform legislation, following the Federal Health Reform Law that the Supreme Court ruled favorably on. The Chapter’s Government Relations staff person, Rebekah Gewirtz, has completed this initial analysis of the law in relation to its potential impact on social work practice. Here are some of the highlights:
  • Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) Must Integrate or Contract Out for Behavioral Health Services
    Basically this means that mental health, substance use disorders and behavioral health services must be part of all health care plans and policies. This requirement institutionalizes the social work principle that all aspects of individuals and families lives (work, school, neighborhoods, relatives etc.) must be attended to in keeping families and individuals healthy.
  • Behavioral Health Providers Can Appeal If They are Removed from an ACO
    This adds a degree of protection for mental health providers.
  • $30 Million in Federal Grants Will Be Available to Behavioral Health Providers to Move to Electronic Medical Records
    Converting from paper records to electronic records is a costly transition. Now financial help will be available to social work clinician.
  • Creates a 19 Member Healthcare Workforce Council of which One Member shall be a Behavioral, Substance Use Disorder and Mental Health Professional
    This council will oversee a loan repayment program to which social workers will have access under certain criteria.
  • Requires Utilization Review Criteria to be Available to Providers and Patients
    These criteria must be evidenced based.
  • Creates a 19 Member Behavioral Health Special Taskforce of which NASW-MA Chapter is Specified as a Member
This is a partial list of the elements in the new Payment Reform Law. Of special note is the inclusion of a tuition repayment program (traditionally called ‘loan forgiveness’, but more accurately now termed ‘repayment’). NASW has been lobbying for a loan forgiveness program for social workers and now the new Legislation includes a similar provision to assist social workers working in certain ‘underserved’ areas to be eligible for this assistance. This is a huge victory!

Social Workers, be proud. The MA Chapter was heavily involved, with our mental health colleagues, in the crafting of these positions. We thank our members for their continued vigilance to the issues.