Legislative Preview: 2008 Policy Priorities ASHA will continue its battle this year on Capitol Hill for issues that benefit audiologists and speech-language pathologists. The second session of the 110th Congress started Jan. 15, and all the previous year’s bills that concern the Association are still viable. The Association’s main priorities remain enacting the following legislation: ... ASHA News
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ASHA News  |   February 01, 2008
Legislative Preview: 2008 Policy Priorities
Author Notes
  • Jim Potter, director of government relations and public policy, can be contacted at jpotter@asha.org.
    Jim Potter, director of government relations and public policy, can be contacted at jpotter@asha.org.×
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Special Populations / Early Identification & Intervention / School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   February 01, 2008
Legislative Preview: 2008 Policy Priorities
The ASHA Leader, February 2008, Vol. 13, 1-9. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.13022008.1
The ASHA Leader, February 2008, Vol. 13, 1-9. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.13022008.1
ASHA will continue its battle this year on Capitol Hill for issues that benefit audiologists and speech-language pathologists. The second session of the 110th Congress started Jan. 15, and all the previous year’s bills that concern the Association are still viable.
The Association’s main priorities remain enacting the following legislation:
  • H.R. 1774/S. 45, which would allow private practice speech-language pathologists to bill Medicare

  • H.R. 1665/S. 2352, which would enable Medicare beneficiaries to visit an audiologist without first obtaining a physician’s referral

  • H.R. 1198/S.1069, which would reauthorize Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programs

  • H.R. 2329/S. 1060, which would provide a tax credit for hearing aids

ASHA will also focus on increasing the funding levels for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
Elections
Politically, 2008 will be an exciting year—thanks to the upcoming presidential and congressional elections. In November, every member of the House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for reelection.
Additionally, election years can widen the partisan divide. In this Congress, with its Democratic majority and Republican administration, the main areas of disagreement are education and healthcare.
Funding and Medicare
Each year Congress must pass the appropriation bills that fund the government and its programs. The annual appropriations process can be rigorous, and in an election year, there will most likely be a struggle between Congress and the White House on spending levels. The first session of the 110th Congress culminated in an omnibus spending package, in which most of the individual appropriations bills were rolled into one large bill.
ASHA will continue urging Congress to significantly increase funding for special education through IDEA, for EHDI, and for other ASHA priorities. However, because Congress and the administration have very different funding priorities, funding levels are not expected to change much from current levels.
Before Congress adjourned in December, the House of Representatives and the Senate sent a short-term Medicare package to the president that expires in six months, because Congress and the administration were unable to negotiate a long-term package last year. Leaders agreed to postpone the scheduled cuts to the 2008 Medicare fee schedule and the expiration of the therapy cap exceptions process until June 30. Negotiations are expected to continue on a Medicare package.
The House passed a Medicare package that was combined with the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The legislation would postpone the fee schedule cuts and the expiration of the therapy cap exceptions process until 2010. In addition, the House Medicare package would give supplier status to SLPs, allowing private practitioners to be reimbursed directly from Medicare.
The two bills were subsequently split, and Congress passed the SCHIP package along. The Senate is expected to consider the Medicare portions of the package in February or March, and it is possible a final bill will be passed before June 30. ASHA will continue to urge Congress to adopt an increase in the fee schedule rates, repeal of the therapy caps, supplier status for SLPs, direct access to audiologists, and pursue other ASHA priorities.
Education Legislation
Another piece of legislation that may be completed before the end of the year is the Higher Education Act (HEA). The Senate has considered and passed its reauthorization bill (S. 1642, the Higher Education Act Amendments of 2007) while the House remains stalled with its consideration of H.R. 4137, the College Cost Reduction and Access Act. The remaining obstacles in the House to advancement of an HEA bill are provisions on increased regulation of publishers who supply books to college book stores and requirements that states maintain their funding levels of higher education over time. If any education bill passes, it is likely to be the HEA bill. ASHA will continue urging Congress to adopt provisions extending loan forgiveness to SLPs and audiologists.
No progress has occurred on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Although both the House and Senate committees with jurisdiction over NCLB have released draft bills, no formal introduction of legislation re-authorizing the law has occurred. Therefore, no subcommittee, full committee, or chamber considered a reauthorization bill during the first session of the 110th Congress. In the current political climate, Congress is not likely to reauthorize NCLB this year.
ASHA expects that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will release the final regulations this year on the Early Intervention Program for Infants and Toddlers with Disabilities (IDEA Part C) of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (commonly known as IDEA 2004).
ASHA will continue to advocate on a number of issues in IDEA Part C, including personnel standards, definition of speech-language pathology services, team models, and strengthening the relationship between EHDI and Part C systems.
ED is expected to issue supplemental proposed regulations on IDEA Part B this spring to further aid states in implementation. ASHA will continue advocating on IDEA Part B implementation issues of concern to its members, including personnel standards.
Grassroots Opportunity
In election years, many legislators spend an increased amount of time in their home states or districts campaigning, decreasing the legislative calendar and work weeks. Although past election years have meant that controversial legislation is not enacted, the benefit is that politicians are more accessible. They tend to hold more town hall meetings and debates.
This year will be an outstanding time to become involved locally—there will be many opportunities to hear what your legislators say, and ask them questions about where they stand on legislation concerning speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and communications disorders.
Your voice on these issues can make a difference. E-mail your legislators on the many issues affecting ASHA members. Draft e-mails and contact information for your legislators are available at http://takeaction.asha.org.
Deb Darcy, director of grassroots advocacy; Catherine Clarke, director of education and regulations; Ingrida Lusis, director of health care regulatory advocacy; and Neil Snyder, director of federal advocacy, contributed to this article.
2008 Senate Elections

Senate elections will take place this year in:

Alabama

Alaska

Arkansas

Colorado

Delaware

Georgia

Idaho

Illinois

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Montana

Nebraska

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

North Carolina

Oklahoma

Oregon

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Virginia

West Virginia

Wyoming

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February 2008
Volume 13, Issue 2