November 15, 2007

The American Academy of Audiology (AAA) announced that it applauds US Sen Tim Johnson (D-SD) for the introduction of his legislation, the "Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act of 2007" – S.2352. The bill is a companion bill to HR 1665 previously introduced in the House by Rep Mike Ross (D-AR).

The academy reported in a news release that its efforts on Capitol Hill led to the introduction of both these bipartisan bills, including securing 63 co-sponsors in the House and four original co-sponsors on the Senate bill including Johnson, Sen Tom Harkin (D-IA), Sen Norm Coleman (R-MN), and Sen Robert Menendez (D-NJ).

Having a specific understanding of the health care delivery system, Johnson was resolute in leading the introduction of this legislation in the Senate.

In his introductory statement in the Senate, Johnson stated, "This legislation will provide Medicare beneficiaries with the same hearing care options available to veterans and federal employees, including every member of this body. This is the policy for the health care programs administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Office of Personnel Management. Direct access works well for our veterans and for federal employees, including members of Congress, and should be available to senior citizens in the Medicare program."

The academy states that the legislation is endorsed by virtually all of the nation’s consumer hearing health care organizations including the National Association of the Deaf, the Hearing Loss
Association of America
, the American Tinnitus Association, and the American Association of People with Disabilities, this legislation is intended to put the patient’s health care needs above all other interests.

 "We are working to have Congress better understand the health car needs of patients as they approach their later years and require more access to quality care. This bill will enhance the choice of Medicare
beneficiaries with hearing loss to receive high quality services from audiologists," stated Academy President Alison Grimes. "The Academy thanks the sponsors of this legislation for their leadership and
longstanding support of hearing health care."

The legislation, according to AAA, would provide seniors "direct access" to qualified audiologists for hearing and balance testing. Currently, Medicare requires seniors with hearing loss or balance disorders to obtain a physician referral before seeing an audiologist. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has allowed veterans to directly access audiologists and has reported that this policy, adopted in 1992, provides "high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective hearing care." The Office of Personnel Management allows federal employees and members of Congress to directly access audiologists through the Federal Employees Health Benefit Plan. The bill would apply this federal policy to hearing health care services provided in the Medicare program.

Source: American Academy of Audiology