Jul 222009

Will the health care reform bill that Congress is now grabbling with finally acknowledge and address the importance of communication?  Will we finally have a mandate for affordable hearing aids, cochlear implants, various hearing assistive technology and training such as speech therapy, speechreading, aural rehabilitation, sign language, cued speech and many more services?

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association has a section on its website that provides information on some key advocacy activities. Take a look at the items below and see more at http://www.asha.org/advocacy/.   – Cheryl Heppner, NVRC

Senate HELP Committee Approves Health Care Reform Bill


By a party line vote of 13-10, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee concluded its deliberation on its health care reform proposal by voting the legislation out of committee. The Senate health care reform debate will now continue in the Finance Committee, which is expected to introduce its legislation later this week. Once the Senate Finance Committee passes its measure, the HELP and Finance proposals will be combined and considered by the entire Senate.

The Senate HELP health care reform bill requires all Americans to obtain health care and creates gateways by which insurance can be purchased. The legislation also outlines a basic benefit package which among other things includes coverage of pediatric services and a provision pushed by ASHA that would require plans to cover both habilitative and rehabilitative services. It would also place an emphasis on quality and efficiency in the health care system and place a greater emphasis on preventative and wellness benefits.

ASHA will continue to work with Congress to ensure that speech-language pathology and audiology services are addressed in the larger scheme of health care reform. For additional information, please contact Ingrida Lusis, ASHA’s Director of Federal and Political Advocacy, at ilusis@asha.org or by phone at 202-624-5951.

House Health Care Reform Bill Recognizes Need for Pediatric Habilitative and Hearing Services


The chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction over health policy in the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced legislation to reform the health care system. H.R. 3200, America’s Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, would require insurance companies to provide a basic benefit package that includes coverage of habilitative services and a pediatric hearing benefit to include services, equipment and supplies for children under the age of 21. ASHA has been working with Congress to ensure comprehensive pediatric coverage of speech-language pathology and audiology services in the context of health care reform.

Highlights of the 1,000 page bill include a two-year extension to the therapy cap exceptions process and changes to the formula used to calculate yearly updates to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. The bill also calls for increased efforts to enhance quality and efficiency in the delivery of health care services. And it places an increased emphasis on wellness and prevention. There are, however, several controversial measures in the bill, including a public health plan option and also a tax on the wealthiest Americans to pay for the legislation.

The legislation was developed by the three House committees of jurisdiction (Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor) and addresses reforms to both private health insurance as well as Medicare and Medicaid programs. All three committees have announced their intentions to begin consideration of the legislation this week with votes in each committee by the end of next week. The entire House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill before Congress adjourns for their August recess.

For additional information on Congressional actions related to health care reform, please contact Ingrida Lusis, ASHA’s Director of Federal and Political Advocacy, at ilusis@asha.org or by phone at 202-624-5951.

Universal Hearing Health Care
Where Do Audiology and Hearing Aids Fit?

From the ASHA Leader 12/16/08

The presidential election in the United States last month capped months of campaigning on a number of issues, including health care. Various models were debated: universal health care subsidized by the federal government, a public-private partnership, and our current model of private-sector health care.

Campaign rhetoric included criticism of various health care programs around the world: the U.S. system for unequal access and skyrocketing insurance premiums, the Canadian universal system for long waiting times for services, and the Swedish system for high costs and high taxes. What has not been discussed in the debate is “hearing health care,” a term used by the World Health Organization and other countries to describe the management of hearing and ear problems.

As we focus on change and political transition, the debate goes on. Should there be “universal health care” in the United States? Should there be universal hearing health care? How will audiology and hearing aid dispensing fit into the picture? To help answer these questions, we can look to other countries for models as well as advice and historical evidence, and examine some of the most extensive hearing health care models in some of the largest countries in the world.

I provide an overview of the Canadian system, which may be familiar, and professionals from four other locations-Western Europe (United Kingdom), South America (Brazil), Asia (China), and Eastern Europe (Russia)-discuss systems in their countries. All of the systems are publically funded with a private-sector component.

Universal health care-and the role of audiology within that model-is a serious matter and the role of our profession is vital.

– Thanks to NVRC, Fairfax