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|ACA UPDATE: Election Increases Importance of Grassroots Advocacy, Safeguards Affordable Care Act||| Print ||
In the national elections held earlier this month voters largely kept in place the lawmakers—including President Obama and members of Congress—they currently have. As a result, the nation will continue to operate with the House of Representatives being controlled by Republicans, with the presidency and the Senate in the hands of Democrats. This combination led to gridlock on many policy issues over the past two years, including on legislation to improve Medicare’s outdated benefit package, such as by establishing coverage of mental health services provided by licensed professional counselors. Whether or not there is increased interest in cooperation will become apparent quickly; Congress and the president have only a few short weeks left to try to agree on changes to broad tax increases and deep spending cuts scheduled to take effect in January. This work will set the framework for more detailed spending and policy decisions next year.
One result of the election is that the Affordable Care Act will continue to be implemented. This is good news for counselors as both health care providers and health care consumers. To cite one example, in a little more than a year health plans will be prohibited from discriminating, with respect to plan participation or coverage, against any health care provider who is acting within the scope of that provider’s license or certification. This provision of the Affordable Care Act will help ensure that counselors are treated fairly by health plans.
Continued divided government gives each party effective veto authority over legislation, making bipartisanship a necessity for progress on any issue. ACA has worked consistently and diligently over the years to gain support from members of both political parties for initiatives to expand access to counseling services, and we’ll continue this work. It is clear, however, that the ongoing focus of policymakers onreducing, not expanding, federal spending means that grassroots contacts from counselors will be absolutely essential to our success on the issues we’re working on. Individual contacts—in the constituent’s own words—have much more impact on legislators than visits from paid lobbyists. Members of Congress aren’t going to publicly support increased spending on Medicare (to pay for counselors’ services) or on Department of Education programs (like the Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Program) unless they know their constituents want them to.
ACA asks counselors to get involved in legislative advocacy. It’s surprisingly easy, and we promise that you’ll sleep better at night, too! For more information on what you can do, contact ACA Grassroots Advocacy Coordinator Art Terrazas at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 800-347-6647 x242.
Scott Barstow | Director, Public Policy and Legislation
ph 703-823-9800 x234 | 800-347-6647 x234