2010 Public Policy Agenda Reflects Member Input Advocacy Will Address School Issues, Audiology Reimbursement, Medicare, and More ASHA News
ASHA News  |   January 01, 2010
2010 Public Policy Agenda Reflects Member Input
Author Notes
  • James Potter, is former director of government relations and public policy.
    James Potter, is former director of government relations and public policy.×
Article Information
Hearing Disorders / School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   January 01, 2010
2010 Public Policy Agenda Reflects Member Input
The ASHA Leader, January 2010, Vol. 15, 7. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.15012010.7
The ASHA Leader, January 2010, Vol. 15, 7. doi:10.1044/leader.AN3.15012010.7
In preparation for the 2010 congressional session, ASHA has developed its annual public policy agenda, which outlines ASHA’s advocacy activities in priority order for the year ahead.
More than 1,300 comments submitted by ASHA members, committees, and staff were reviewed by ASHA’s Government Relations and Public Policy (GRPP) Board in shaping the 2010 agenda, which was accepted by ASHA’s Board of Directors. The agenda addresses major public policy concerns of audiologists, speech-language pathologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists. Each issue objective is assigned to one of four priority levels based upon:
  • Importance to the association’s members and/or those they serve.

  • Level of resources required to make progress.

  • Immediacy and likelihood of meaningful action.

The GRPP Board divided the 2010 issue objectives into three categories: policy (including service standards and coverage issue objectives), funding (reimbursement and appropriations issues), and personnel (recruitment, retention, and encroachment issues).
Policy Issues
The 2010 agenda includes some new and revised issue objectives intended to tackle policy challenges facing audiologists and SLPs, while also continuing sustained efforts, including two Medicare issues: conversion from technical expense to a professional work basis under the Medicare fee schedule and repeal of the Medicare therapy caps.
High on ASHA’s priorities for 2010 include the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also known as No Child Left Behind), expansion of loan forgiveness and other recruitment strategies, and regulatory implementation of any health care reform legislation that may be enacted.
This year also will see an increased focus on school-age hearing detection and intervention, classroom acoustics, and repeal of insurers’ exclusionary policies for habilitation services and device coverage, such as speech-generating devices and hearing aids.
Funding Issues
ASHA will continue to promote direct patient access to audiologists, and also will seek a comprehensive Medicare audiologic reimbursement benefit to include both diagnostic and rehabilitative services. ASHA has long supported the addition of audiologic rehabilitative services under Medicare, but a policy shift by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has made this advocacy initiative more imperative. In brief, due to the limited scope of audiology services under Medicare, CMS is viewing these services as technical in nature—rather than professional—in determining reimbursement levels. By recognizing the full scope of audiology services, CMS would need to reevaluate this position. This CMS stance is important because many private insurers follow Medicare’s lead in policy development.
CMs’ determination that audiology benefits are defined and covered only as diagnostic services led to the statement in the 2010 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule final rule that Medicare will no longer reimburse any audiology service that can be construed to have an evaluation and management, or therapeutic, component. This directive affects tinnitus, auditory rehabilitation, and cochlear implant codes.
ASHA will work with Congress to define not only direct access in the Medicare statute, but also for a comprehensive audiology benefit that would include both diagnostic and therapeutic intervention services for Medicare beneficiaries.
Personnel Issues
The 2010 agenda also sets forth the need to establish a service continuum for the professions to specify clearly the education, credentialing, and supervision requirements for speech-language pathology and audiology support personnel. Persistent vacancies in positions for qualified clinicians providing habilitation and rehabilitation services to individuals with speech-language and hearing disorders has led to a rise in alternative standards allowing lesser-qualified providers to fill the void. The state education requirements for bachelor- and associate-level practitioners are as varied as the states themselves.
The goal is to develop state model legislation and corresponding clinical practice standards for support personnel, with ultimate responsibility for their services resting with the CCC-SLP and CCC-A professionals who supervise them. Further details about the process of developing these standards and state model legislation will be available later this year.
The full 2010 public policy agenda is available on ASHA’s Web site.
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January 2010
Volume 15, Issue 1