Responding to the Affordable Care Act: A Leadership Opportunity for Social Workers in Employee Assistance Programs

Source: Susan Frauenholtz, Health & Social Work, Advance Access, First published online: June 25, 2014
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Until recently, estimates indicated that more than half of Americans obtain health insurance through their employers. Yet the employer-based system leaves many vulnerable populations, such as low-wage and part-time workers, without coverage. The changes authorized by the Affordable Care Act (2010), and in particular the Health Insurance Marketplace (also known as health insurance exchanges), which became operational in 2014, are projected to have a substantial impact on the provision of employer-based health care coverage. Because health insurance is so intricately woven with employment, social workers in employee assistance programs (EAPs) are positioned to assume an active leadership role in guiding and developing the needed changes to employer-based health care that will occur as the result of health care reform. This article describes the key features and functions of the Health Insurance Marketplace and proposes an innovative role for EAP social workers in implementing the exchanges within their respective workplaces and communities. How EAP social workers can act as educators, advocates, and brokers of the exchanges, and the challenges they may face in their new roles, are discussed, and the next steps EAP social workers can take to prepare for health reform–related workplace changes are delineated.