2004 Legislative Preview Health care and education issues remain at the top of ASHA’s ambitious public policy agenda in 2004-a year that presents both obstacles and opportunities on Capitol Hill. The federal budget deficit, along with the intense focus on defense and homeland security, creates a challenging climate for making advances in domestic ... Features
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Features  |   March 01, 2004
2004 Legislative Preview
Author Notes
  • Reed Franklin, is ASHA’s director of federal and political advocacy.
    Reed Franklin, is ASHA’s director of federal and political advocacy.×
  • Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy.
    Neil Snyder, is ASHA’s director of federal advocacy.×
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Hearing Disorders / Audiologic / Aural Rehabilitation / Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Features
Features   |   March 01, 2004
2004 Legislative Preview
The ASHA Leader, March 2004, Vol. 9, 14-16. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.09042004.14
The ASHA Leader, March 2004, Vol. 9, 14-16. doi:10.1044/leader.FTR4.09042004.14
Health care and education issues remain at the top of ASHA’s ambitious public policy agenda in 2004-a year that presents both obstacles and opportunities on Capitol Hill. The federal budget deficit, along with the intense focus on defense and homeland security, creates a challenging climate for making advances in domestic policy. ASHA will continue to work hard in this environment to advance the interests of members and the patients and students you serve.
For school-based members, the fight continues for full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). President Bush’s budget begins the debate with the proposal to increase IDEA Part B funds by $1 billion. ASHA will continue to take a leadership role in the fight to make sure that schools have the resources needed to address issues such as caseload and workload. This year also will see the continuation of the effort to re-authorize IDEA. ASHA will be working with policy-makers in this process to address issues such as highest qualified provider and paperwork reduction.
ASHA also will be pressing forward on two important bills for audiologists. One would provide for direct access to audiologists in the Medicare program, giving beneficiaries the option of going directly to audiologists without needing a physician referral. The second bill would provide Medicare coverage for audiologic rehabilitation.
Speech-language pathologists in health care settings won a dramatic victory last year with the two-year extension of the moratorium on the $1,500 Medicare caps on outpatient services. This year efforts will focus on legislation to correct the statutory problem that fails to separate speech-language pathology services from physical therapy. This correction would give SLPs the ability to receive their own Medicare provider number and directly bill Medicare outpatient services.
To achieve success, ASHA members can play a key role by advocating with their federally elected officials. Members may do so by going to the ASHA grassroots Web site (http://takeaction.asha.org). Another success factor is member support for ASHA’s political action committee, ASHA-PAC. This important resource supports our champions on Capitol Hill and is an essential element in any legislative success.
Direct Billing for Speech-Language Pathologists
Medicare law has a technical error that has penalized SLPs for far too long. For convenience, legislators in 1972 added SLP services to the existing provision for a physical therapy outpatient benefit. This same provision in the law led to SLPs sharing a $1,500 Medicare cap with physical therapists rather than having their own cap.
Although it’s not easy to change Medicare law, ASHA is working hard to correct this statutory problem and fully separate speech-language pathology services from physical therapy. To remedy this problem ASHA supports H.R. 1995 as introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and S. 568 as introduced by Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) that would create separate paragraphs for speech-language pathology and physical therapy services under the Medicare outpatient statute. This legislation would align the outpatient statute with other parts of the Medicare program that recognize two separate services and remove regulatory financial and paperwork burdens that restrict the ability of SLPs to bill Medicare in outpatient private practice settings.
Members of Congress must hear from ASHA members on this important issue. Visit http://takeaction.asha.org to learn how to contact your representatives on Capitol Hill.
IDEA Reauthorization
The bill titled “Improving Education Results for Children With Disabilities Act of 2003” (H.R. 1350), which passed the House, eliminates qualification standards for related service personnel in current law. This could result in unqualified or under-qualified persons delivering services in the schools. The Senate’s qualified provider language in S. 1248 is an improvement, but still falls short of standards in current law.
Unqualified or under-qualified providers have little or no clinical practice experience and limited education-which often translates to children remaining longer on special education rolls. This costs local school districts more money and misleads children with disabilities and their parents.
Empirical evidence shows a strong correlation between the qualifications of general and special education teachers, school-based clinicians, and the level of success for students receiving services.
The final appropriations for fiscal year 2004 for IDEA contained a $1 billion increase for Part B state grants, with modest increases for the Part C early intervention and preschool grant programs. ASHA members should be disappointed that Part D Personnel Preparation Grants received their second annual cut with reduction of more than half a million dollars.
While the $1 billion-increase for Part B grants continued the pattern set by the Bush administration of billion-dollar annual increases, the increase falls short of Congress’ own budget that set aside $2.2 billion for 2004. This failure demonstrates the need for a mandatory full funding amendment that would lock in specific annual increases to reach the authorized 40%.
The cut to personnel preparation funding continues a pattern of level funding combined with across-the-board cuts followed by level funding and more cuts. These cuts combined with Congress’ failure to maintain even inflationary increases will result in either fewer new or extended grants and/or smaller grants.
Audiology: Direct Access and Audiologic Rehabilitation
In 2004 ASHA is supporting two pieces of legislation critical to audiologists. The Hearing Health Accessibility Act would allow Medicare beneficiaries to receive services directly from a qualified audiologist without a referral from a physician. Please urge your representatives in the House to co-sponsor H.R. 2821, introduced by Reps. Jim Ryun (R-KS) and Lois Capps (D-CA), and urge your senators to co-sponsor S. 1647, introduced by Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell (R-CO).
The second bill important to audiologists is H.R. 3464, the Medicare Audiologic Rehabilitation Act, introduced by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). This bill would provide Medicare coverage for audiologic rehabilitation and treatment services provided by qualified audiologists.
These bills are important not just to Medicare patients but to everyone. Because other insurance providers often follow Medicare’s lead, these bills can be an important precedent for the whole health care system.
Go to http://takeaction.asha.org for more information about how to advocate for these bills.
Get Out the Vote-It’s Primary Time!

by Stefanie Reeves and Linda Lucas

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters will decide who will hold all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 seats in the Senate, and who will occupy the Oval Office.

Super Tuesday-March 2-is a critical date on the campaign calendar when a large number of states hold their primary elections. The phrase “Super Tuesday” first entered our political vocabulary on March 9, 1988, when a regional group of primaries were held on the same day. The hope was that by holding their elections on the same day, Southern states would increase their influence in selecting presidential candidates and downplay the importance of the earlier New Hampshire primaries and Iowa caucuses. Now, many states-not just Southern states-hold primaries or caucuses on the first Tuesday in March.

On March 2, voters in primaries in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Vermont and caucuses in Minnesota and North Dakota will cast their votes for a Democratic candidate for president. Although the candidates will try to win primaries in many of those states, California, New York, and Ohio are probably the most important races, since those states have the largest populations, and therefore, the greatest influence on Super Tuesday.

Following Super Tuesday is “Southern Tuesday,” which will be held on March 9, when Florida, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi will hold primary elections. The Democratic nominee for president will not officially be decided until the Democratic National Convention.

Tradition dictates that the challenging political party holds its national convention before the party that holds the White House. The Democratic nominee will be announced officially at the Democratic National Convention in Boston, which begins July 26. The Republican National Convention begins Aug. 30 in New York City.

Let Your Voice be Heard-Vote!

Voting is one of our most basic civil rights and the cornerstone of a democratic government. However, millions of eligible voters don’t take the time to learn about the candidates or cast ballots for those they feel will represent them the best.

On Tuesday, Nov. 2, voters will decide who will hold all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, 34 seats in the Senate, and who will occupy the Oval Office. ASHA is gearing up for the upcoming congressional and presidential elections with our online “Get Out the Vote” (GOTV) campaign. Visit our Web site for a dedicated GOTV page. Our message to you is: Let Your Voice be Heard-Vote!

ASHA’s GOTV page provides you all of the information you’ll need to participate in the democratic process. Won’t be able to get to the polls? Find out how to obtain an absentee ballot. Haven’t registered to vote? Get registration deadlines for your state. Don’t know when your state is having its primary? Look for our list of primary dates. There are even links to candidates’ Web sites so that you can see where they stand on issues of importance to you, your family, and those you serve. See how the upcoming elections will affect your daily personal and professional life. Find out when candidates are having local meetings and join in. There are any number of things you can do to become engaged in this important political process, and most of them don’t cost any money and take very little time.

Please visit our GOTV Web site. If you don’t see what you need, let us know. If you have questions, please contact us. Comments may be sent to gotv@asha.org. But no matter what you do, exercise your fundamental civil right and vote.

For more information on this topic or other advocacy issues, contact Linda Lucas by phone through the Action Center at 800-498-2071, ext. 4427, or by e-mail at llucas@asha.org, or Stefanie Reeves at ext. 4452 or sreeves@asha.org.

10 Reasons to Vote on Nov. 2
  1. Only 537 votes determined the outcome of the 2000 presidential election.

  2. Only 32% of voters between the ages of 18 and 24 voted in the 2000 elections.

  3. The founders of the United States fought for the right to vote as an essential part of the American democracy. Much later, African Americans and women won the right to vote after long struggles.

  4. Members of Congress and the president shape health care and education policy, which will affect the future of the professions.

  5. By voting, you set a good example to children, friends, family, and colleagues.

  6. If you don’t vote, it’s hard to complain with a clear conscience.

  7. Like muscles, rights that aren’t exercised go flabby.

  8. It’s free and easy. Vote by mail or at your local polling place.

  9. Do you really want someone who doesn’t care about your issues and values making decisions for you?

  10. You vote for the future your children will inherit.

States with 2004 Senate elections (34)
  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Connecticut

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Maryland

  • Missouri

  • Nevada

  • New Hampshire

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Washington

  • Wisconsin

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FROM THIS ISSUE
March 2004
Volume 9, Issue 4