Students and Members Advocate on Capitol Hill Current and future ASHA members flooded Capitol Hill this spring to advocate for increased awareness of the professions. Boards, committees, students, and other groups have conducted more than 200 meetings with members of Congress and their staff in the last three months, educating them on a variety of legislative issues ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   June 01, 2011
Students and Members Advocate on Capitol Hill
Author Notes
  • Kate Fry, director of political advocacy, can be reached at kfry@asha.org.
    Kate Fry, director of political advocacy, can be reached at kfry@asha.org.×
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Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   June 01, 2011
Students and Members Advocate on Capitol Hill
The ASHA Leader, June 2011, Vol. 16, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.AN4.16062011.22
The ASHA Leader, June 2011, Vol. 16, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.AN4.16062011.22
Current and future ASHA members flooded Capitol Hill this spring to advocate for increased awareness of the professions. Boards, committees, students, and other groups have conducted more than 200 meetings with members of Congress and their staff in the last three months, educating them on a variety of legislative issues identified in ASHA's public policy agenda.
With the competitive congressional climate this year, grassroots action is critical to advocacy success and its impact is already being felt. As a result of these meetings and other efforts, members of Congress are lending their support to two important pieces of legislation.
In a training session prior to the Hill visits, ASHA-PAC Board members Luis Riquelme (center) and Tori Gustafson role play an advocacy meeting with ASHA staffers.
More than 36 members of the House of Representatives have agreed to cosponsor the Hearing Aid Tax Credit (H.R. 1479) Act (see related story p. 23). The House version of the bill provides a $500 tax credit every five years to eligible individuals in need of hearing aids. ASHA members met with the sponsors of the bill while on Capitol Hill and pledged their support for this important legislation. In addition, as a result of two student visits, Congressmen Todd Platts and Jim Gerlach, Republicans from Pennsylvania, agreed to sign on to the bill as original cosponsors.
The issue of Medicare outpatient therapy caps also tops the advocacy agenda. Over the past several years, Congress has recognized the detrimental effects of a cap on outpatient rehabilitative therapy services—including speech-language pathology—and has instituted an annual exceptions process that allows Medicare beneficiaries to receive medically necessary treatments beyond the cap. The most recent therapy cap legislation is set to expire Dec. 31. ASHA continues to advocate for a permanent solution and outright repeal of the cap. Congressional members from both political parties agree with this approach and have signed on to sponsor such legislation in this Congress.
Members of the ASHA Advisory Councils and the Board of Directors also proved that it's possible to have fun while supporting a good cause at a wine tasting hosted by the ASHA Political Action Committee (ASHA-PAC). Nearly 100 individuals advanced ASHA-PAC's mission of helping to elect members of Congress who understand and champion issues important to ASHA. During the event, ASHA-PAC recognized U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) for his support of ASHA, its members, and those who benefit from receiving services provided by ASHA members.
All ASHA members can be heard on Capitol Hill and take part in advocacy efforts by visiting the ASHA advocacy webpage.
Hearing Aid Tax Credit, Therapy Cap Bills Introduced

Reps. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) and Carolyn McCarthy (D-N.Y.) introduced hearing aid tax legislation into the U.S. House of Representatives on April 12. H.R. 1479 would provide for a tax credit of $500 per hearing aid every five years for children up to the age of 21 and for individuals 55 and older. The legislation limits the tax credit eligibility to families with a household income of up to $200,000. The Senate is expected to introduce its hearing aid tax credit legislation later this spring.

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Students from Towson University advocated on behalf of hearing aid tax credit legislation with Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.). As a result of the visit, Rep. Gerlach signed on as a cosponsor of the bill.

According to Latham, the bill has attracted widespread bipartisan support because it addresses a serious problem for millions of Americans across the country in an affordable and measured way. The bill has 34 additional original cosponsors.

Similar legislation introduced into the last session of Congress garnered 130 cosponsors. Although the current political climate makes it difficult to move any type of legislation forward, ASHA will work with other hearing-health organizations to gain additional Congressional support for this measure. For the bill to move forward, it will need additional cosponsors and must be voted on by both the House and Senate. All ASHA members are encouraged to take action on this legislation through ASHA's advocacy website.

Before leaving for a two-week district work period, both the House and the Senate introduced legislation to repeal the Medicare therapy cap. The House bill was introduced by Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.) and Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.). The Senate bill version was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). The current therapy cap exceptions process is set to expire at the end of 2011, and ASHA will be working closely with other stakeholder groups to ensure that therapy caps will not be reinstated. It is likely, however, that the therapy cap issue will be included in a larger Medicare bill later in the fall.

For additional information, contact Ingrida Lusis, director of federal and political advocacy, at ilusis@asha.org.

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June 2011
Volume 16, Issue 6