Federal Benefits to Improve in 2009 Program Adds Audiology, AAC Coverage; Clinicians Should Enroll as Providers Policy Analysis
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Policy Analysis  |   October 01, 2008
Federal Benefits to Improve in 2009
Author Notes
  • Angela Foehl, director of private health plans advocacy, can be reached at afoehl@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5677.
    Angela Foehl, director of private health plans advocacy, can be reached at afoehl@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5677.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   October 01, 2008
Federal Benefits to Improve in 2009
The ASHA Leader, October 2008, Vol. 13, 1-34. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.13142008.1
The ASHA Leader, October 2008, Vol. 13, 1-34. doi:10.1044/leader.PA.13142008.1
In January 2009 health plans will improve benefits for audiology services and assistive communication devices for the 8 million federal employees, retirees, and their families who receive coverage through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).
ASHA members are already enrolled as providers for nonfederal patients with many of the hundreds of commercial carriers who participate in FEHBP. Members should enroll as soon as possible with the insurance carriers that have expanded relevant services. Federal government employees and retirees can make their FEHBP selections from mid-November through mid-December. A list of plans that participate with the new coverage is available on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Web site, categorized by ZIP code and by state.
The increased coverage is the result of a March “call letter” sent by the OPM to FEHBP participants encouraging improved benefits for adults who need hearing aids and other assistive communication devices.
OPM’s letter followed a similar request in 2007 for increased coverage for children. At ASHA’s urging, OPM’s 2007 letter encouraged insurance companies to increase hearing benefits for newborns and children, noting that hearing loss is one of the most common congenital birth disorders. Of the five 2008 nationwide fee-for-service plans, two—Mail Handlers Benefit Plans and Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) Service Benefit Plan—included new or improved coverage for hearing aids. BCBS Service Benefit Plans, also known as the Federal Employee Program, were most responsive, adding all hearing benefits recommended in the 2007 OPM call letter.
In its 2008 call letter, OPM referred to this previous request: “In last year’s call letter, we encouraged you to review your hearing benefits for newborns and children. We are pleased many carriers increased benefits with little or no additional premium cost. We are now strongly encouraging you to enhance hearing benefits for adults. We are seeking benefit proposals for professional services as well as hearing aids. Proposals for improved hearing benefits need not be cost-neutral.”
In addition to hearing aids, the letter also called for coverage of durable medical equipment, including “augmentative and alternative communication products such as speech generating devices and audible prescription reading devices” for individuals with special needs.
ASHA will continue to work with OPM and private health plans to obtain comprehensive coverage for speech-language-hearing services and devices for children and adults.
For further information, contact reimbursement@asha.org.
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October 2008
Volume 13, Issue 14