Hearing Health Bills Move Forward In key steps toward eventual enactment, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee approved two critical hearing health bills last month—the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2008 and the reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act. Approval by the committee of jurisdiction is a ... Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   April 01, 2008
Hearing Health Bills Move Forward
Author Notes
  • Deborah Darcy, director of grassroots advocacy, at ddarcy@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5612.
    Deborah Darcy, director of grassroots advocacy, at ddarcy@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5612.×
  • James Potter, director of government relations and public policy, at jpotter@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5670.
    James Potter, director of government relations and public policy, at jpotter@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5670.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   April 01, 2008
Hearing Health Bills Move Forward
The ASHA Leader, April 2008, Vol. 13, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.13052008.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2008, Vol. 13, 1-7. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.13052008.1
In key steps toward eventual enactment, the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee approved two critical hearing health bills last month—the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) Act of 2008 and the reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act.
Approval by the committee of jurisdiction is a significant victory, and clears the way for consideration of the bills by the full House.
EHDI Funding
The EHDI bill’s sponsors, Reps. Lois Capps (D-CA) and James Walsh (R-NY), have been pressing for the legislation since introducing it in February 2007. The bill (H.R. 1198) next goes to the full House for a vote.
The legislation would reauthorize EHDI grants to states to implement programs that screen newborns for hearing loss before they leave the hospital. The bill also would allow states to use the funds for follow-up services to ensure that infants found to have hearing loss receive a full diagnostic evaluation and, if necessary, are enrolled in early intervention programs. The legislation is consistent with the 2007 position statement of the Joint Committee on Infant Hearing (JCIH).
“We need to ensure that every newborn is screened, and that families who need follow-up care receive it,” said Capps, a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, during committee proceedings. She noted that as a school nurse for more than 20 years, she knows firsthand what happens to children who have undiagnosed hearing loss and/or never received proper intervention.
“They may fall behind in school and face other social difficulties. Early identification and intervention are key to a child’s well-being and that’s what we aim to achieve through the reauthorization of the Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Act,” Capps said.
EHDI state grants and assistance were first authorized in the Newborn Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act of 1999, which was incorporated and signed into law as Title VI of the Labor, HHS and Education Appropriations Act of 1999. The following year, Congress reauthorized these grants through the Children’s Health Act of 2000 (P.L. 106–310) and included provisions related to early hearing screening and evaluation of all newborns, coordinated intervention, habilitation services, and research.
Federal EHDI grants, coupled with the rise of state EHDI laws and voluntary programs, have significantly increased the number of newborns screened for hearing loss before they leave the hospital today to more than 90%. Significant work, however, remains to ensure that newborns with hearing loss receive timely and appropriate services.
Approximately half of those referred for diagnosis are “lost to the system,” either because they receive no follow-up or because their follow-up is not tracked. In addition, more than half of the infants diagnosed with hearing loss are not enrolled in early intervention programs by 6 months of age, a target called for in the JCIH position statement. Continued federal funding and assistance is needed to ensure that state EHDI programs become fully operational and properly link screening programs with diagnosis and early intervention.
ASHA members have been participating in the grassroots campaign to advocate for EHDI reauthorization. This first step has demonstrated the effectiveness of member advocacy. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate (S. 1069) by Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Tom Harkin (D-IA). ASHA will continue to work to support enactment of this legislation.
TBI
The TBI Act, first enacted in 1996, provides states with federal grants to develop state-level infrastructure and service delivery systems for individuals with TBI and their families. The programs specifically focus on TBI treatment and rehabilitation, individual and family support, returning to work, housing or supportive living, personal assistance services, assistive devices and technologies, behavioral health services, and substance abuse services. The Act was reauthorized in 2000 with additional provisions for protection and advocacy services for individuals with TBI and their families.
Introduced by Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Todd Platts (R-PA), the House bill would authorize a new study through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health to research the incidence, prevalence, and treatment of TBI. The measure also would authorize a study on improving access to care for veterans with TBI, one of the signature injuries of the war in Iraq. The Senate approved a companion TBI bill (S. 793) late last year.
ASHA members who would like to contact their legislators to ask for support of the bills can visit the ASHA Take Action Web site.
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April 2008
Volume 13, Issue 5