February 27, 2022
President Biden signed into law another temporary extension of government funding, which ensures funding for federal programs at current levels through March 11. Congressional negotiators have reportedly agreed to overall spending levels for the remainder of the fiscal year and are assembling an omnibus spending package that will include funding for health, education, and research programs of interest to audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs). Visit ASHA’s take action site to support funding increases for special education and newborn hearing screening.
The Senate confirmed Dr. Robert Califf to serve as Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Califf, who previously served in the post, was confirmed by a vote of 50-46. ASHA congratulated Dr. Califf on his confirmation and encouraged the FDA to ensure appropriate access to safe and effective over-the-counter hearing aids.
Discussions about extending telehealth flexibilities beyond the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) are intensifying. House and Senate leaders are considering including an extension in spending legislation next month. This would allow audiologists and SLPs to continue providing telehealth services under Medicare—a flexibility that is set to expire when the PHE ends. The extension would give Congress additional time to make permanent changes to Medicare telehealth policy. Support ASHA’s efforts to secure permanent telehealth authority under Medicare today!
Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) are leading work to draft Senate legislation to reauthorize Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) funding. This would allow state-based programs to continue providing critical support for newborn hearing screening programs, and to connect families of children diagnosed with hearing loss with evidence-based early intervention services. This effort follows the House passage of its EHDI legislation in December, which included provisions ASHA pushed to examine disparities in pediatric hearing health care. ASHA is also advocating for congressional appropriators to fund EHDI at its full authorization level this year, act now to support full funding for EHDI.
The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education held a hearing on “Promoting a Healthier, More Supportive School Environment.” ASHA is submitting testimony highlighting the role that educational audiologists and school-based SLPs play in helping to ensure access to education for all students, while supporting their physical, social, and emotional health.
ASHA continues advocacy efforts to enact ASLP-IC legislation in states across the country. Bills are progressing in Iowa, Missouri, Idaho, Vermont, and Tennessee. However, legislation is being challenged in South Carolina by the state medical society while bills in Indiana and Minnesota face opposition in their respective state legislatures.
Music therapy legislation, using ASHA and the American Music Therapy Association’s (AMTA) agreed upon amendment language, was proposed in Illinois, Minnesota, and Washington. In Maryland, however, ASHA learned that music therapists issued a proposal to add receptive and expressive language to their scope of practice. ASHA is meeting with AMTA to address these issues and is working with the Maryland Speech Language Hearing Association to ensure that appropriate language is included in its music therapy regulations.
Proposed licensure for applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists raises concerns regarding scope of practice. ASHA is working with state associations in Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas to address infringement concerns. In West Virginia, controversial occupational licensure reform bills were introduced that would eliminate hearing assessments and the hearing aid dispenser’s board as a result of the FDA’s proposed rules on OTC hearing aids. ASHA, the American Physical Therapy Association, and the American Occupational Therapy Association, along with their state affiliates in West Virginia, are opposing legislation that would eliminate the scope of practice for health care providers in licensure.
ASHA is working with state associations to address Language Equality and Acquisition for Deaf Kids (LEAD-K) bills introduced in Iowa, Minnesota, and Virginia, by providing amendment language and/or ASHA’s model LEAD-K language to state association leadership and state lobbyists.
ASHA staff submitted comments in support of overturning a longstanding rule in Rhode Island that prohibits children over the age of 9 from receiving standalone speech and language services. This rule, which ASHA opposed several years ago, has prevented students from receiving needed speech-language pathology services.
The U.S. Department of Education opened grant applications to higher education institutions to partner with nonprofits for fiscal year 2022 “Personnel Development to Improve Services and Results for Children with Disabilities—Personnel Preparation in Special Education, Early Intervention, and Related Services for Personnel Serving Children with Disabilities.” Applications are due April 15, 2022.
Thank you for participating in Go for the Gold with ASHA-PAC campaign! Between January 20-February 20, ASHA-PAC raised $16,357 from 521 members. Learn more about ASHA-PAC.
What is ASHA Advocacy? Speaking out personally and professionally for making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all.