New Program Combines Political, Legislative Advocacy In response to one of the most challenging legislative climates in decades, ASHA is taking measures to involve members in an unprecedented level of advocacy before the U.S. Congress. With a congressional agenda heavily emphasizing cost reduction and budget cuts, the legislative horizon looks as difficult as ever, with the ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   August 01, 2011
New Program Combines Political, Legislative Advocacy
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.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   August 01, 2011
New Program Combines Political, Legislative Advocacy
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 22. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.16082011.22
The ASHA Leader, August 2011, Vol. 16, 22. doi:10.1044/leader.AN2.16082011.22
In response to one of the most challenging legislative climates in decades, ASHA is taking measures to involve members in an unprecedented level of advocacy before the U.S. Congress. With a congressional agenda heavily emphasizing cost reduction and budget cuts, the legislative horizon looks as difficult as ever, with the threat of real cuts to our professions a distinct possibility.
To meet this challenge, ASHA is launching a new program—“Speak Out, Be Heard”—a partnership of grassroots advocacy and activities of the ASHA Political Action Committee (ASHA-PAC). The comprehensive program combines ASHA’s advocacy efforts to protect and promote the professions in the legislative and political arenas.
Legislative Efforts
Through this program, ASHA is working to promote an ambitious public policy agenda that, at its forefront, serves to protect the current level of services provided by ASHA members. Other issues expected to receive congressional attention include:
  • Reform of the Medicare therapy caps exceptions process.

  • Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

  • Restoration of highest-qualified provider status under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

  • Enactment of tax credits for hearing aid purchases.

  • Inclusion of a comprehensive audiology benefit in the Medicare program.

  • Inclusion of telepractice services in the Medicare program.

The need to elevate the priorities of communication sciences and disorders professionals before lawmakers becomes even more important in the face of competition from other interest groups. The decisions of Congress affect physicians, nurses, anesthesiologists, and hundreds of other health care professionals. With so many provider groups, including ASHA, seeking legislation beneficial to their professions and those they serve, immediate action is required.
Grassroots Efforts
Grassroots involvement is essential for legislative success. ASHA members have taken steps to protect their professions through Capitol Hill days and e-mail blasts. Congress’s recent passage of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act (EHDI), for example, was achieved not only through direct lobbying by hearing health groups but also through e-mails (5,868 messages from ASHA members) and direct contact with congressional staff initiated by ASHA members and others. But the new climate in Washington, D.C., demands even stronger efforts.
“Speak Out, Be Heard” will incorporate successful past activities and expand them through active recruitment of key grassroots captains in each congressional district and state. These grassroots captains will serve as the primary contacts with their U.S. senators and representatives and establish valuable relationships to increase awareness of the issues that face speech-language pathologists and audiologists. Captains also will help galvanize their speech-language pathology and audiology colleagues in federal advocacy initiatives.
Political Efforts
The PAC component of this new program is just as critical. ASHA-PAC is the only federal political action committee dedicated to representing the professions in the nation’s political process. The nonpartisan ASHA-PAC receives voluntary contributions from thousands of ASHA members and uses those funds to help elect members of Congress who understand and champion ASHA’s legislative priorities.
Contributing to congressional campaigns and attending fundraising events is a critical part of ASHA’s advocacy strategy. ASHA-PAC is the only mechanism through which members of the professions can help choose which individuals will make the decisions affecting their professional futures.
“Speak Out, Be Heard” supplements ASHA’s current advocacy efforts: meetings between ASHA lobbyists and members of Congress, ASHA members’ e-mails to their representatives, and ASHA-PAC’s robust activities. However, to succeed in this difficult climate, all three components of ASHA’s advocacy efforts—legislative, grassroots, and political advocacy—must synergize through an active and aggressive approach. “Speak Out, Be Heard” represents the integrated strategy necessary for real success in Congress.
Visit ASHA’s website for more information about “Speak Out, Be Heard” grassroots captains and ASHA-PAC.
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August 2011
Volume 16, Issue 8