Hill Visits Prove the Power of One, the Power of Many Dual Force of SLPs, Audiologists Succeeds on Capitol Hill ASHA News
ASHA News  |   April 01, 2004
Hill Visits Prove the Power of One, the Power of Many
Author Notes
  • Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.
    Marat Moore, managing editor of The ASHA Leader, can be reached at mmoore@asha.org.×
Article Information
School-Based Settings / Practice Management / Regulatory, Legislative & Advocacy / ASHA News & Member Stories / ASHA News
ASHA News   |   April 01, 2004
Hill Visits Prove the Power of One, the Power of Many
The ASHA Leader, April 2004, Vol. 9, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.09082004.1
The ASHA Leader, April 2004, Vol. 9, 1-10. doi:10.1044/leader.AN.09082004.1
Audiologist Connie Barker felt a little nervous as she stepped into the Metro subway car in Washington, DC, on her way to the U.S. House of Representatives. It was a Friday morning, a chilly day in mid-March, and on the Metro with her were other audiologists and speech-language pathologists who, like Barker, serve on ASHA’s Health Care Economics Committee (HCEC).
They were headed to the Senate as a group, while she was flying solo-going alone to the House. Her goal: to persuade her representative, Democrat Nick Lampson of Texas, to cosponsor bills on direct access to audiologists, Medicare audiologic rehabilitation, separation of outpatient speech-language pathology and physical therapy services in the Medicare law, and to retain “highest qualified provider” status for speech-language pathologists and audiologists in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
“I was anxious, but reminded myself that this was important, and that the legislative staff was no older than my graduate students,” said Barker. “Also I knew I was exercising my rights and responsibilities as a citizen, and that in many parts of the world, you can’t do that without dangerous consequences.”
Being prepared also helped. Before the March 19 visit, HCEC committee members were coached by ASHA’s Capitol Hill director and given a folder of issue briefs for Lampson and other representatives.
Before the day was over, she had visited the offices of Lampson, and in the Senate building, of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
“I had three different experiences, and learned a lot,” she said. “All the staffers eagerly wrote down the number of audiologists and SLPs living in Texas. None of them knew what an audiologist was-but they know now.”
A week later an e-mail arrived from Lampson’s staffer telling Barker that Lampson had signed on as cosponsor of three bills she had discussed with him.
“To use a catch phrase, I learned about ‘The Power of One,’” Barker said. “As a teacher, I know that what I do today can influence students in the future. Now I want to apply that belief to the political process on a consistent basis.”
…And the Power of Many
March was Capitol Hill month for ASHA-with Hill visits by the HCEC and members of the Board of Division Coordinators as the first forays. A second, bigger wave of advocacy followed on March 30, when more than 150 members of ASHA’s Legislative Council converged on the congressional complex to build legislative support for key bills. So many LC members participated that they had to be shuttled in buses to different entrances to the House office buildings for mandatory security clearances. Once there, councilors received a policy briefing by ASHA leaders and staff in a congressional committee room lined with rich dark paneling and hung with historic paintings. Teams of members from different states-comprised of audiologists and SLPs-fanned out to legislative offices in the U.S. House and Senate.
In less than 24 hours, the first results were in-three new co-sponsors in the U.S. House of Representatives for the Hearing Health Accessibility Act of 2003 (H.R. 2821) from New Jersey, Tennessee, and Texas. Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) decided to sign onto the bill after Gerard Caracciolo, Barbara Glazewski, Alan Gertner, and Justine Joan Sheppard met with Holt’s staff. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) became a cosponsor after his staff met with councilors Marion Hammett, David Wark, and Sue Hale.
“This is the largest group of Legislative Councilors ever to lobby on a single day. The issues they brought to the Hill crossed both speech-language pathology and audiology interests. Their work had a great impact,” said ASHA President Larry Higdon. “This is part of an ongoing advocacy campaign that will pay dividends to the professions for years to come.”
For DeAnne Owre, a Rhode Island councilor and school-based SLP, the lobbying day offered an opportunity to meet with each of her senators, Jack Reed (D-RI) and Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), to ask them to visit her school to talk with the children, clinicians, teachers, and principal.
“I did not expect to meet with them directly, but when I started talking about IDEA, they really perked up,” Owre said. “When I mentioned No Child Left Behind, they both asked what impact it’s had in Rhode Island. That’s when they mentioned the possibility of a visit, to find out first-hand how the law was affecting our 102-year-old school in Woonsocket. I’d like to get both of them there for a planned ‘town meeting’ for the children-it would mean a lot to them, and to the teachers and the principal.
“After both meetings, I stayed and talked with their assistants for a half hour each, and was able to expand on the issues. I invited them to attend the town meeting. I felt really excited about making the personal contacts and about the senators’ reactions. This was not my first Hill visit-but it was a particularly successful one.”
Relationships That Count
Advocacy efforts build over time, and success grows from the strength of relationships formed with elected officials and their staffs, according to Linda Lucas, ASHA’s director of grassroots advocacy.
“Long-term contact matters most,” she said. “After Hill visits, you can find many ways to build visibility for the professions. Go to a town hall meeting, or visit a home district office, or perhaps go to a fundraiser.
“If you do, then when members of Congress and their staffs are looking for a constituent with expertise, or just for support, they may think of you, and get in touch.”
Lucas had one final tip. “Don’t sell the legislative staff short. They can make all the difference.”
Policy Issues: What We’re Lobbying For

These are the issues that ASHA members discussed with their U.S. Representatives and Senators last month in Washington, DC.

Direct Access to Audiologists

Cosponsors are needed for the “Hearing Health Accessibility Act of 2003”-S. 1647 in the Senate and H.R. 2821 in the House-which would give Medicare beneficiaries the option of going directly to a qualified audiologist for hearing and balance diagnostic tests.

Retention of “Highest Qualified Provider” Language in IDEA

Grassroots advocacy is needed to preserve the “highest qualified provider” standard or its statutory equivalent for school-based SLPs and audiologists in any legislation reauthorizing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). A bill passed by the House, H.R. 1350, eliminates qualifications standards found in current law. This could result in unqualified or under-qualified individuals delivering school services. The Senate’s qualified provider language in S. 1248 is an improvement over H.R. 1350, but still falls short of the qualification standards in current law.

Medicare Audiologic Rehabilitation (AR)

Cosponsors are needed for H.R. 3464, “The Medicare Audiologic Rehabilitation Act of 2003,” introduced by Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA). This bill would allow Medicare coverage for audiologic rehabilitation and treatment services provided by qualified audiologists.

Separation of Speech-Language Pathology From Physical Therapy in Medicare Law

Cosponsors are needed for S. 568, which would make a vital technical correction to the Medicare Part B outpatient statute by separating speech-language pathology and physical therapy services in the law. Correcting this error would remove regulatory financial and paperwork burdens that restrict the ability of SLPs to bill Medicare from outpatient private practice settings.

In Good Taste, For a Good Cause
ASHA-PAC Benefit Raises Political Awareness

More than 100 councilors spent a fun-filled evening on March 26 at the second annual LC wine tasting and silent auction to benefit ASHA’s legislative efforts and the work of the ASHA-PAC. During the tasting, conducted by Rob Stewart of the Sommelier Food and Wine Society of Washington, DC, attendees bid on such items as lunch with ASHA’s executive director, Academy Award-winning movies, and antique vases. Even President Bush, in the form of a cardboard cutout, made an appearance and posed for a few pictures. Congratulations to the winners of the silent auction: Roberta Aungst, Larry Higdon, Catherine Gottfred, Susan Freiman, Laurel Stine, Les Aungst, Melissa Jakubowitz, Meredith Boo, Doris Snyder, Linda Tepperman, Lynn Blachman, DeAnne Owre, Kathleen Peterson, Mary Hooper, and Ken Bouchard.

Events such as the annual wine-tasting and silent auction raise awareness of the work of the ASHA-PAC. Many of the champions for ASHA’s issues in education, health care, and research funding are involved in tough races during this election year. A contribution for ASHA-PAC can help ensure that the friends of speech-language pathology and audiology win seats in Congress.

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April 2004
Volume 9, Issue 8