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TOP NEWS and HEADLINES in March

  • Two Hearing-Related Bills Pass House Panel
  • CMS Issues Guidance on “Incident To Billing” of Audiology Services
  • Pedersen Named New Director at GN Otometrics
  • Researchers Confirm Link Between Common Cold and Ear Infection
  • HLAA Names Battat as Its New Executive Director
  • Repetitive Transcranial Stimulation May Relieve Tinnitus
  • Patent Approved for R-Space Sound System
  • BHI Publishes Legal Rights Guide for Individuals with Hearing Loss
  • Second Phonak Virtual Audiology Conference 2008
  • Sonic Innovations Adds Automatic Features to Its Smallest Hearing Aid
  • Youngest Patient Worldwide to Have Auditory Implant in Brain Stem
  • Zebrafish to the rescue! A small striped aquarium fish is helping scientists understand what makes people susceptible to a common form of hearing loss. In a study published in the February 29 issue of the journal PLoS Genetics, researchers at the University of Washington have developed a research method that relies on a zebrafish’s lateral line—the faint line running down each side of a fish that enables it to sense its surroundings—to quickly screen for genes and chemical compounds that protect against hearing loss due to use of some medications. “The fish’s lateral line contains sensory cells that are functionally similar to those found in the inner ear, except these are on the surface of the fish’s body, making them more easily accessible,” said James F. Battey, Jr, MD, PhD, director of the NIDCD, which cofunded the study. “This means that scientists can very efficiently analyze the sensory structures under different conditions to find out what is likely to cause damage to these structures and, conversely, what can protect them from damage.”
  • EHDI and falls legislation clear House committee. The Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Reauthorization Act (HR 1198) and the Keeping Seniors Safe from Falls Act of 2007 (HR 3701) cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March, sending the bills to the House floor for final approval and passage. The EHDI bill is supported by virtually all hearing-related organizations and consumer groups. Similarly, the Keeping Seniors Safe from Falls Act of 2007 will go on the House calendar for consideration. The bill addresses the growing health problem of falls among older adults and focuses on fall prevention and treatment for senior citizens.
  • CMS issues guidance on “incident to billing” problem. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released an update to audiology policies, clarifying existing guidance, with an implementation date of April 7, 2008. The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) requested that CMS address “incident to” billing practices (ie, when a physician bills for audiologic services under the physician’s provider number and not the audiologist’s). More recently, AAA sent a letter in December requesting CMS to issue further guidance clarifying its policy under the Medicare program that allows physicians to bill for diagnostic tests, including audiology tests. According to AAA, for those audiologists employed by a physician, it provides the vehicle to stop “incident to” billing. If this practice continues and audits occur, payback of fees paid will be mandated. Audiologists have had “any qualified provider” status in the Medicare statute for years, enabling the billing of audiologic diagnostic services within Medicare with a physician referral for a medically necessary reason. It now allows audiologists to correctly bill for those services directly to Medicare with the requirement of the physician referral being met at this point in time, according to AAA.

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