Legislative Preview The Year Ahead Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis  |   February 01, 2009
Legislative Preview
Author Notes
  • Ingrida Lusis, director of federal and political advocacy, can be reached at ilusis@asha.org.
    Ingrida Lusis, director of federal and political advocacy, can be reached at ilusis@asha.org.×
Article Information
Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / Policy Analysis
Policy Analysis   |   February 01, 2009
Legislative Preview
The ASHA Leader, February 2009, Vol. 14, 1-21. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.14022009.1
The ASHA Leader, February 2009, Vol. 14, 1-21. doi:10.1044/leader.PA1.14022009.1
Improving health care and education will be important during the 111th Congress but the economy will take precedence in any 2009 legislation. President Obama’s economic stimulus plan, with a projected total of up to $775 billion, was to be announced soon after his Jan. 20 inauguration.
Beyond economic stimulus and recovery, the new administration’s ambitious agenda includes policy objectives that affect ASHA members. Initiatives that provide health insurance to all Americans will dominate discussions in congressional health care committees. Early-childhood intervention, a top Obama priority, will keep school-based issues on the front burner.
The economic stimulus package may include legislation to fund school construction and renovation projects. Another possibility is a mandate to implement health information technology and electronic medical records. Such technology could provide substantial health care savings for the federal government and private industry.
Health Care Reform
The administration’s goal of improving U.S. medical care includes the Medicare program, projected to become insolvent by 2019 without reform. In December 2008, the Obama transition team kicked off a series of health care forums similar in style to gatherings the president held to build support for his candidacy.
Former senator Thomas A. Daschle, then-nominee for secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, attended the first of more than 8,000 scheduled meetings. Daschle said the meetings are designed to invite recommendations about health care reform from those who are most directly affected.
The administration has proposed a plan that would invest in health information technology to increase quality and reduce medical errors. The plan also places an emphasis on wellness and prevention and calls for creating a system in which all Americans can afford health care.
Key to the plan is development of a National Health Insurance Exchange, which would allow individuals to purchase health care plans. The plans would be based on existing health care coverage currently provided to members of Congress and their families through the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. Employers still would be encouraged to provide insurance to their employees, and seniors still would have access to Medicare.
The overhaul of America’s health care system will take several years. ASHA will work with Congress and the administration to ensure that health care reform includes appropriate access to speech-language pathology and audiology services as well as speech-generating devices and hearing aids.
ASHA will urge Congress to address pressing issues in the Medicare program, including the drastic cuts to the physician fee schedule set for 2010 and expiration of the therapy cap exceptions process. ASHA’s legislative efforts will continue to focus on access to audiology services.
ASHA will advocate for increased funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and to establish funding for student loan forgiveness provisions in the recently passed—but not yet funded—Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008. ASHA will work to ensure that speech-language pathology and audiology concerns are addressed in both the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act and IDEA. ASHA will also work for introduction and passage of classroom acoustics legislation.
The Obama administration has outlined three major problems within the education system: limited funding of NCLB, teacher retention, and the high cost of college. The administration has signaled its support for reauthorizing and improving NCLB, as well as increasing funding and effectively enforcing IDEA. During the presidential campaign, Obama proposed $18 billion in new education spending.
A key Obama priority is early childhood education. The administration is calling for a “0 to 5” plan that would emphasize early care and education for infants. The administration proposes to make college affordable for all Americans by creating a new American Opportunity Tax Credit.
Grassroots Advocacy
ASHA members are the best advocates on policy issues that affect the professions of audiology and speech-language pathology. Members are strongly encouraged to become actively engaged in the legislation process. ASHA members are encouraged to contact their members of Congress throughout the year to engage them on issues important to the professions.
ASHA members also are encouraged to participate in ASHA’s “Grassroots in a Box” campaign (see page 20). As part of this campaign, members receive all the tools they need to engage in advocacy and develop crucial relationships with their elected officials.
Learn More About ASHA’s Political Action Committee
ASHA-PAC is another way in which members can support political and legislative initiatives. In 2008, ASHA member support of ASHA-PAC helped secure congressional support for key legislative victories including student loan forgiveness and Medicare billing for speech-language pathologists. The PAC enjoyed an 89% success rate in contributions to political candidates during the 2008 elections. For additional information, contact pac@asha.org..
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February 2009
Volume 14, Issue 2