American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Executive Director Update

May 7, 2012

This is another in a series of occasional ASHA Executive Director Updates. These updates are intended to provide ASHA members with a more in-depth view of various ASHA programs and National Office units, key member services and initiatives, and names and roles of ASHA staff. Information about staff changes and ASHA National Office recognitions/awards is also included.

Many thanks to those of you who have provided feedback regarding previous updates or suggestions for future Executive Director updates.

ASHA's 2012 Public Policy Agenda

The ASHA Government Relations and Public Policy Board (GRPPB) is charged with developing an annual public policy agenda (PPA) that prioritizes advocacy activities of the Association and the efforts of the Government Relations and Public Policy staff. The PPA is designed to drive advocacy for the current year at the federal and state levels and with public and private payers. Because 2012 is an election year, Congress, regulatory agencies, and states are all looking to curtail spending. Consequently, a key challenge facing ASHA is to maintain funding for providers and consumers through various government programs.

The GRPPB developed the 2012 agenda in consultation with committees, state association presidents, staff, and members (2,286 of whom responded to the survey seeking input and/or provided comments). In a change from the 2011 PPA, which ranked issues in four categories, the 2012 PPA groups issues into two categories—proactive advocacy and opportunistic advocacy—based upon significance, available resources, and likelihood of success. Being proactive means ASHA will use its resources to undertake initiatives that are of highest priority to members. Opportunistic means that, as opportunities arise or become available, ASHA will respond by using its resources and focusing advocacy activities to advance issue objectives. Issues in each category are further identified as education, health care, or professional depending upon their primary characteristics.

Education Issues

The 2012 PPA addresses several issues pertaining to education. These include the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA), and Medicaid. ASHA plans to use its resources proactively to:

  • Advocate that ESEA be used as a funding source for early intervening speech-language pathology and audiology services, promote policies addressing the role of the professions in general education, and strive for consistent terminology in ESEA and IDEA,
  • Maintain current IDEA funding levels,
  • Develop paperwork reduction strategies in collaboration with key stakeholders, including ASHA members, disability advocates, and the education community, and
  • Support policies that improve classroom acoustics, such as ANSI 2002 standards.

As opportunities arise, ASHA will continue to promote policies for appropriate billing by IDEA providers for reimbursement by Medicaid and other insurers for speech, language, and hearing services and equipment. Similarly, the Association will seek to eliminate the reduction to Social Security benefits to audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who participate in public retirement plans caused by a statutory offset provision.

Health Care Issues

The 2012 PPA will continue to address Medicare, Medicaid, third-party payer plans; fee schedule, coding, and billing issues; and child hearing health services. One issue for proactive advocacy that was in the 2011 PPA and continues in 2012 is the comprehensive audiology benefit for the entire scope of audiology services, from screening through diagnosis, monitoring, habilitation, and rehabilitation. The 2012 PPA would allow audiologists an opportunity to opt out of Medicare if they choose to do so. Other health care issues requiring proactive advocacy include:

  • Improved public and private coverage policies for audiologists and SLPs across the age span through the valuing of reimbursement codes, inclusion of services provided by audiologists and SLPs as essential health benefits under the Affordable Care Act, enactment of the hearing aid tax credit, and fixing the sustainable growth rate formula and therapy cap exceptions process that is discipline-specific,
  • Inclusion of habilitative coverage of speech, language, and hearing services and devices in private and public insurance policies, and
  • A comprehensive system of children's hearing health care services, including implementation of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) program with focus on intervention and coordinated management across state and federal agencies; insurance coverage of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and other hearing devices; and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. (ASHA was successful in fulfilling a 2011 PPA objective: reauthorization of EHDI legislation.)

Professional Issues

Professional issues affect the development, training, scope of practice, licensure, and practices of audiologists and SLPs. The 2012 PPA encourages proactive promotion of universal licensure and reciprocity using the CCCs as the benchmark for qualifications to support consistency across states. In addition, ASHA will proactively develop and disseminate model language for states that defines the credentials, competencies, and service delivery options for CCC SLPs and SLP-Assistants. Similar to 2011, the 2012 PPA promotes strategies to support recruitment and retention through efforts to secure financial aid, loan forgiveness, salary supplements, workload models, and research funding opportunities.

As opportunities arise, ASHA will also:

  • Support audiologists and SLPs in the role of employees or consultants of state agencies,
  • Advocate for recognition and coverage of telepractice services by the professions,
  • Promote research funding opportunities and evidence-based practice through the National Institutes of Health, Department of Education, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and Veterans Health, and
  • Continue to support laws and policies that deter discrimination based on disability, gender, identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, religion, age, and cultural or ethnic heritage.

National Office Staff Updates

The following individuals are new to the ASHA staff since February 2012:

  • Sarah Haider, Research Assistant in Communications Disorders (N-CEP)
  • Erin Mantz, Public Relations Manager
  • Michael Meurer, Administrator, Programs and Chapter Relations, NSSLHA
  • Rahel Solomon, Manager, CE Provider Services
  • Jessica Tennant, Meetings Manager
  • Hannah Wesolowski, Director, Political and Grassroots Advocacy

The following individuals have left ASHA to pursue other opportunities:

  • Vic Gladstone, Chief Staff Officer for Audiology (Retired)
  • Natasha Taylor, Manager, Programs

Recent ASHA and ASHA National Office Awards

ASHA's Marketing website has been awarded a Gold EXCEL award from Association Media & Publishing in the category of Promotional Publications: Media Kits: Digital/Online Media kit. Association Media & Publishing represents association publishers, business operation executives, communications professionals, designers and content generators and the media they create.

The Next Executive Director Update

ASHA Welcomes International Affiliates

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