October 4, 2021
In collaboration with National NSSLHA, ASHA is hosting a virtual Student Advocacy Day on October 20, 2021. We are encouraging all students to contact their members of Congress to support workforce diversity in the professions, funding for newborn hearing screening through the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) initiative, and funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Members of ASHA’s Board of Directors walked the halls of Congress (virtually) to build support for ASHA’s key health care and education priorities. Board members participated in nearly two dozen meetings over the course of the week and secured commitments from multiple offices to support ASHA endorsed policies. ASHA thanks the Board for its virtual advocacy and encourages all members to visit the federal take action page to support the Board’s efforts in these areas.
House Committees Advance New Medicare Hearing Benefits
Three House committees have advanced legislation that includes provisions to provide Medicare coverage of treatment services provided by audiologists and reclassify them as practitioners under the Medicare statute, which would enable permanent telehealth authority. ASHA collaborated with the American Academy of Audiology (AAA) and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) on a joint statement supporting these provisions [PDF] and emphasizing the need to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have timely and robust access to hearing and balance care provided by audiologists. The provisions are being assembled into a larger budget package that could soon be considered by the full House of Representatives. Earlier this summer, ASHA worked with AAA and ADA to outline our collaborative approach on congressional efforts to add new hearing benefits to Medicare. Take action NOW to improve Medicare beneficiary access to audiology services by asking members of Congress to support the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act.
Meeting with OSERS Leadership at the U.S. Department of Education
ASHA had the opportunity to meet with Katy Neas, the deputy assistant secretary and acting assistant secretary of the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS), and senior career leaders. Our discussion focused on strengthening our collaborative relationship and advocating for policy objectives that focus on the importance of establishing a speech disorder technical assistance center and issuing guidance related to school-based Medicaid and telepractice.
Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact (ASLP-IC) Update
ASHA and its partner at the Council of State Governments met with state legislators in Washington, Delaware, and New Jersey to discuss their interest in introducing compact legislation in 2022. ASHA also participated in the Department of Defense (DoD) annual meeting to discuss the interstate compact, which the DoD supports, to help ease the burden of military spouses who typically need to apply for a new license when moving from state to state. In a segment called “This Week in Hearing,” ASHA staff along with member audiologist Tracey Ambrose discussed the interstate compact including its development, regulatory policies, provider benefits and limitations, and consumer protections.
Elementary and Secondary School Relief (ESSER) Funds
Resources were sent to state association leaders to help them advocate for ESSER funds to address the shortage of special education personnel including SLPs. The U.S. Department of Education is allocating 13.2 billion dollars through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to support, in part, the hiring of qualified special education personnel. ASHA provided information about the funds, data to support the need for hiring more SLPs, and information about how states planned to use their funding. Staff have scheduled follow up meetings in states to develop their advocacy strategy.
Telepractice Flexibility Continues to Wane in the States
Only 10 states continue to maintain flexibility for practicing across state lines. Connecticut, Iowa, and Missouri allow out of state practice without additional requirements. California, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and West Virginia are requiring out of state licensees to provide information/registration with the board to conduct telepractice. Illinois is allowing practitioners to provide telepractice services in the state if the provider has a pre-existing relationship with the client. All the remaining states have reverted to pre-COVID requirements.
Representatives Attend AMA CPT Editorial Panel Meeting
Members from ASHA's Health Care Economics Committee (HCEC) attended the American Medical Association's Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Editorial Panel virtual meeting to represent the interests of ASHA's members in the code development process. During the meeting, the Panel reviewed ASHA’s request to add several audiology and speech-language pathology services to Appendix P of the CPT codebook. Appendix P identifies CPT codes that may be reported for services provided via telehealth and may be used by payers to make telehealth coverage decisions.
James Kvaal Confirmed as Under Secretary of Education
The U.S. Senate recently confirmed James Kvaal to be Under Secretary of Education. Kvaal recently served as president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a higher education research and advocacy nonprofit, and previously served in the Obama White House as deputy domestic policy adviser and as deputy undersecretary at the U.S. Department of Education. ASHA looks forward to working with Under Secretary Kvaal in his new role overseeing higher education policy and programs to support audiology and speech-language pathology students.
ASHA-PAC Hosts Reception for Board of Directors
ASHA-PAC hosted a virtual reception to thank ASHA’s Board of Directors for lobbying Congress to support health and education policies important to the professions. President A. Lynn Williams highlighted the importance of advocacy to improve the ability of audiologists and SLPs to serve their patients, clients, and students, while PAC Board Chair Samantha Kleindienst announced a record-breaking fundraising year for the PAC. U.S. Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) joined the call to highlight his struggles with hearing impairment and to thank ASHA for its work, and Congressman Joe Neguse (D-CO) called in to share how grassroots advocacy resulted in Ally’s Act (H.R. 477), ASHA supported legislation [PDF] that he introduced to require private health insurers to provide coverage of implantable hearing devices and related services provided by audiologists.
SIG 13 Virtual Advocacy
Special Interest Group 13, Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders, held virtual meetings with Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), chair of the Senate Aging Committee, Senators Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), co-chairs of the Senate Telehealth Caucus, and other key House and Senate members to discuss ways to expand access to services provided by audiologists and SLPs.
What is ASHA Advocacy? Speaking out personally and professionally for making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all.
Learn more about ASHA’s advocacy priorities in the 2021 Public Policy Agenda.