On Your Behalf

As the Monitor went to press, the health-care reform bills being considered by Congress appeared to be favorable for psychology. Among the key psychology provisions in both House and Senate bills are:
  • Inclusion of mental health and substance use services in the essential benefit package at parity with medical/surgical services in the new insurance exchanges.

  • Promotion of an integrated, interdisciplinary team-based approach to health care.

  • Authorization of grants to accredited doctoral, internship and postdoctoral residency programs for the interdisciplinary training of psychologists. Creation of new and expansion of existing geriatric and child/adolescent health professions education and training programs to include psychologists in the Senate bill.

  • Recognition of mental and behavioral health as part of new prevention and wellness initiatives.

  • Restoration of the 5 percent Medicare reimbursement rate cut. In 2007 psychology was the only provider group to win a boost from Congress in Medicare fees. APA is confident that the reimbursement rate will be extended for another two years in the final health-care reform bill.

  • Proposals to address the Medicare "sustainable growth rate" payment formula, which would result in a 21.5 percent decrease in Part B reimbursements in January. While the Senate bill would delay the cut for one year and replace it with a half percent increase, the House bill would permanently replace the payment formula and provide a 1 percent increase. To deal with budget procedure rules, this particular Medicare issue is moving through Congress as a separate bill.

For more up-to-date information on health-care reform, go to www.apa.org/health-reform

APA's Education Government Relations Office led another enthusiastic contingent of nearly 100 psychologists to Capitol Hill to advocate for an increase in funding for the Graduate Psychology Education program as part of this year's Education Leadership Conference (see page 64 for complete coverage). After participating in a comprehensive and interactive Hill training session, APA members, both new and returning psychology advocates, made nearly 150 congressional visits, representing 31 states.

Creating awareness about research on driver distraction has been a priority of APA's Science Directorate for years. This year, APA has urged Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to finalize a "distracted driver action plan" that has been under development at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That advocacy paid off in the form of a two-day summit Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, where prominent psychologists and others met to define the problem of distraction and inattention; examine the results from research; discuss the influence of technology; evaluate the role of legislative, regulatory and enforcement options; and promote public education and awareness. Psychological science was well-represented throughout the summit with presentations by William Horrey, PhD; Key Dismukes, PhD; David Eby, PhD; and Adrian Lund, PhD.

APA was among the 29 national organizations raising awareness about the shortage of professionals to care for the nation's aging population as part of the Eldercare Workforce Alliance (EWA) Health Reform Advocacy Day on Sept. 15. APA worked with the EWA to coordinate the day, during which participants met with key congressional leaders to discuss health-care reform priorities, including the expansion of vital federal health professions education and training programs to include psychologists and initiatives to promote effective integrated, interdisciplinary models of health care. Among the advocates were Deborah DiGilio, (APA Office on Aging); Lisa Brown, PhD (University of South Florida); Diane Elmore, PhD, MPH (APA PI-GRO); Paula Hartman-Stein, PhD (Center for Healthy Aging); Suzann Ogland-Hand, PhD (Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services); Donna Rasin-Waters (Brooklyn VA); and Kathleen Van Dyk (City University of New York). To learn more about the EWA, visit www.eldercareworkforce.org.

Psychologists' research shows that both employers and employees benefit from workplace flexibility, such as parental leave and other family-friendly policies, said APA Executive Director of Public Interest Gwendolyn Puryear Keita, PhD, who represented APA at two Oct. 23 congressional briefings on the flexible work arrangements. "When employees receive the flexibility they need, studies [find] that there is less absenteeism and employees are more satisfied with their jobs." Employees are also more motivated to embrace healthy behaviors, sleep better and are more likely to be involved in employer-promoted health education programs, she said. The bonus for employers is lower health-care costs. 

APA President James H. Bray's Task Force on Psychology's Contribution to End Homelessness went to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to support the Services to End Longterm Homelessness Act (H.R. 3636). Sponsored by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.), the legislation would fund permanent supportive housing services including mental health, substance use, and health education and referrals. APA works in coalition with several organizations in support of the bill and will continue to work with Congress to pass this critical legislation.

On Oct. 5, APA Science Government Relations Office Director Geoff Mumford, PhD, accompanied APA Fellow Robert Balster, PhD, and Matthew Howard, PhD, to brief senior staff at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy on the dangers of inhalant use. Balster provided an overview of the behavioral pharmacology/phenomenology of inhalants and Howard detailed inhalant use epidemiology. After the briefing, Mumford and Balster met with the office's Deputy Director A. Thomas McLellan to discuss regulatory loopholes that allow certain volatile nitrite "poppers" to be sold by retail outlets and possible ways to limit their availability. (See a "Questionnaire" with McLellan.)

In an effort to protect political science research at the National Science Foundation, APA urged U.S. senators to vote "no" on an amendment from Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), H.R. 2847, that would strip all funds for the political science program in NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate. On the Senate floor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), who chairs the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over NSF, voiced strong opposition to Coburn's amendment. She emphasized the critical importance of the social sciences, and political science in particular, in addressing issues ranging from conflict negotiation to global innovation. The bill and its amendments continued to be debated in the Senate as the Monitor went to press.

The needs of veterans

APA participated in several events hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Inc. and the Congressional Black Caucus Veterans Braintrust on Sept. 25. Specifically, APA member Kristin Lester, PhD, of the National Center for PTSD, Women's Health Sciences Division, VA Boston Health Care System spoke about the needs of women veterans and veterans of color. The event was convened by Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Sanford Bishop Jr. (D-Ga.) and included Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki and other distinguished military leaders. Lester also participated in a veterans roundtable discussion with notable veterans health-care experts. For more information about this event, visit APA's Public Interest Government Relations Office Web site.