December 20, 2022
UPDATE: On December 29, 2022, President Biden signed the bill into law.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023 (H.R. 2617), which will fund the federal government through the current fiscal year, includes key funding and policy provisions for which ASHA advocated to support audiologists and speech-language pathologists (SLPs). It is expected that Congress will pass the bill this week, and President Biden will sign it into law by midnight on Friday.
Following are some highlights in the bill. ASHA thanks and recognizes audiologists and SLPs across the country whose advocacy and engagement helped contribute to achieving these successes during the 117th Congress.
The bill extends the authority for audiologists and SLPs to provide telehealth services to Medicare beneficiaries and continues waivers of geographic and originating site restrictions through December 31, 2024. ASHA will continue advocating for permanent Medicare telehealth authority for audiologists and SLPs through enactment of the Enhanced Telehealth Access Act during the 118th Congress.
The bill includes significant funding increases for IDEA to ensure students with disabilities receive the education and services they are legally entitled to.
The bill reduces Medicare Part B payments cuts scheduled for next year by a total of 6.5%, completely waiving the 4% PAYGO cuts and reducing the conversion factor cut (related to budget neutrality of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule) by 2.5%. While this partial relief still means that audiologists and SLPs will face an approximate 4% cut in Medicare Part B payments next year, ASHA is committed to stopping the cuts more fully and developing a solution that provides longer-term payment stability.
The bill encourages the U.S. Department of Education to provide technical assistance to help audiologists and SLPs better support students with speech-language disorders in school settings. ASHA is pushing for Congress to fund the establishment of a Technical Assistance Center on speech/communication disorders within the Department next year to provide this support.
The bill includes language from the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, a top ASHA priority, that would authorize federal support to accredited audiology and speech-language pathology programs to increase the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds.
The bill provides funding for the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act that facilitates early screening, diagnosis, and treatment for infants and young children with hearing loss. Earlier this month, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize these programs, which was a top priority for ASHA.
The bill provides additional funding for communication sciences and disorders (CSD) as well as rehabilitation research. It also encourages the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) to convene a workshop involving key stakeholders including industry, academia, and patient advocates, to develop a roadmap for bringing therapies and treatments to individuals with hearing loss
The bill directs NIH to provide an update on research across its Institutes related to hearing screenings for older adults and prioritize funding to address research needs.
The newly elected members of the 118th Congress will be sworn in on January 3, 2023. ASHA will continue to advocate for additional progress on these and other issues next year while working to educate Congress on ways to better support audiologists and SLPs. To do that, ASHA has developed its 2023 Public Policy Agenda that includes priorities designed to ensure that the value of audiologists and SLPs in schools, health care, early intervention, private practice, and higher education settings is adequately reflected in rapidly evolving laws, regulations, and payment policies.
Contact Jerry White, ASHA's director of federal and political affairs, at email@example.com.