President's Message: Medicare Audiologist Access & Services Act of 2019

President's Message: Medicare Audiologist Access & Services Act of 2019

Message from the President: Lisa Christensen, AuD

Advocacy Updates

Our biggest news recently has been the introduction of the bipartisan legislation called the Medicare Audiologist Access & Services Act of 2019 (H.R.4056). This legislation was developed jointly by our Academy, the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), and introduced by Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC-7) and nine other representatives, and will enhance the Medicare benefit by providing beneficiaries with critical direct access to both diagnostic and therapeutic services of audiologists. In brief, this bill would remove the unnecessary physician referral to and streamline coverage of the full range of Medicare-covered services provided by audiologists that corresponds with their scope of practice. As well, the bill would reclassify the audiologist under Medicare as a practitioner to be consistent with other providers. The Academy leadership is very pleased to work closely with ADA and ASHA to advance this bill through introduction in the Senate and increased numbers of co-sponsors with the goal of passage in the 116th Congress. How quickly the three groups came together to draft this legislation and get it introduced demonstrates our shared commitment to advancing the profession on your behalf.

The Academy has also been working with ASHA, as well as the APTA and AOTA, to support the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019. Introduced by Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), this legislation would make scholarships and stipends available to diverse and disadvantaged students underrepresented in the professions of audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Accredited academic programs in these professions could apply for funding to support the scholarships and stipends; programs accredited by ACAE would qualify. The text of this bill was amended into HR 2781—The EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019. 

The Academy will also be supporting anticipated carryover legislative priorities from the last Congress, including The Telehealth Parity Act and the Access to Frontline Care Act. As well, we remain involved in several coalitions and collaboratives to promote the interests of audiologists. In late June, the Academy also submitted comments about the role of the audiologist in response to a Senate Special Committee on Aging request for stakeholder recommendations on prevention and management of falls and fall-related injuries.   

The Academy shared with members the recent release of the proposed rules for the 2020 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule. The rules generally show positive values for audiology costs. CMS also proposes new measures sets for the 2022 Merit-based Incentive Payment System, otherwise known as MIPS. Audiology will officially be included, and CMS has added three more measures in addition to the existing 6 for audiologists. The new measures are Elder Maltreatment Screen and Follow up Plan, Functional Outcome Assessment, and Screening for Future Fall Risk. General information is now available about the rules on the reimbursement section of the Academy web site, and more detailed analysis will soon be available.

The Academy continues to receive press inquiries in follow up to our inclusion on the Good Morning America piece about state insurance mandates for coverage of hearing aids for children. I had the opportunity to talk more directly about this, as well, on Sirius Doctor Radio this past week.

How Can You Get Involved?

  • Join the Grassroots Network and be on the alert to reach out to your legislators to support bills or to prepare comments on new rules that may impact audiologists. 
  • Contribute to the Academy PAC. Remember, dollars given to the PAC are used only as contributions to members of Congress. 
  • Share the word about legislation of interest to other audiologists and encourage them to get involved. 
  • If you teach policy in an academic program, connect with Academy staff to organize a DC student advocacy visit.      

To complement our advocacy efforts, the Academy also has outreach priorities to enhance public awareness about audiology at both the patient and provider levels. Our Health Care Relations Committee has been focusing on outreach to referring providers and recently launched the Outreach Grant Program. The inaugural grant submission deadline is August 30. 

Important Dates

In other work across the Academy, here are a few activities and dates of note:

Call for Abstracts
The AAA 2020 call for abstracts opens on August 20. Think now about your abstract submissions. You also might want to take minute to check out on the website the plans for our new expo experience for attendees and exhibitors called HearTECH Expo. Mark your calendar for April 1-4, 2020, to join us in New Orleans for what promises to be a fantastic conference.

Practice Management Specialty Meeting
Registration has been open for the Practice Management Specialty Meeting to be held on January 9-11, 2020. This is a must-attend event to keep you at the forefront of audiology practice management. What a great gift to yourself (or a colleague) to start the new year off with unparalleled learning experiences while enjoying the luxury of beautiful Hawaii. View the information on the phenomenal hotel discounts and details about the program.

Membership Renewals
Membership renewals will open soon. It is an exciting time for audiology, so stay involved in this dynamic organization to help shape the future. This is also a good time to obtain your ABA Certification if you have not yet applied under the new annual model.

Academy Board Nominations Due by Mid-September
It is also the time of the year to think about running for the Academy board. Nominations due by mid-September, and full applications will be due later in the fall. I strongly encourage actively engaged members to think about pursuing a leadership role on the board. I can attest to how personally fulfilling it is to serve on the Academy board and how important each board member is to advancing the profession.

Lisa Christensen, AuD
(Twitter handle: @AuDLeadership)