Audiologists’ Interests Prominent Part of Recent ASHA Capitol Hill Lobbying More Than 400 Visits To Lawmakers Mark Advocacy By ASHA Audiology, Speech-Language Pathologist Leaders That Urges Direct Access To Audiologists, Early Intervention Services
Audiology and speech-language pathology leaders of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) made more than 400 visits on Capitol Hill in late March as part of an intensive lobbying effort that called for direct access to audiologists and early intervention services.
An immediate result was the introduction of the “Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act of 2007,” (HR 1665) by Rep. Mike Ross (D-AR) and 14 other co-sponsors. A Senate companion bill is expected to be introduced by Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) in the near future.
A bipartisan measure, HR 1165 would allow Medicare beneficiaries the option of going directly to a qualified audiologist for hearing and balance diagnostic tests. Currently, Medicare beneficiaries with hearing loss or balance disorders are required to obtain a physician referral before seeing an audiologist. This bill calls for aligning Medicare “direct access” with programs administered by the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Veterans Affairs, which allow patients to see an audiologist without a physician referral.
“These very encouraging results show what can be achieved with the ‘strength in numbers’ that comes with an organization like ASHA, with its membership of more than 127,000,” ASHA 2007 President Noma Anderson bserves. “It also shows what can be accomplished when ASHA member speech-language pathologists and audiologists advocate side-by-side for the same legislative goals, something they do year-round.”
ASHA audiology and speech-language pathology leaders also lobbied for the “Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2007” (HR 1198; S. 1069). Introduced in the House by Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and Jim Walsh (R-NY), and in the Senate by Sens. Olympia Snowe (D-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), the bill would reauthorize grants to state EHDI programs for early intervention services and family support programs.
Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems including swallowing disorders. For more information about ASHA visit www.asha.org.
Source: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.