The Academy represents the interests of audiologists on federal legislative matters impacting the practice of audiology by monitoring the activities of the U.S. Congress. The Academy strives to keep its members updated on current legislation, while engaging lawmakers on key issues to ensure the voice of audiology is heard on Capitol Hill.
Legislative Initiatives in the 116th Congress
The Academy has been working collaboratively with ASHA and ADA on this legislation that will:
- Give audiologists additional opportunities under Medicare by reclassification as “practitioners,”
- Allow for direct access by Medicare patients to audiologists, and
- Expand covered audiologic services beyond diagnosis to include treatment.
This major legislative initiative will help align audiologists with other doctoral-level health professionals under the Medicare program. Being classified as a practitioner under the Medicare program also grants audiologists the ability to opt-out of Medicare should they so choose.
Read the Academy's Issue Brief on the Medicare Audiologist Access and Services Act.
The Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019, sponsored by Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) was introduced on July 9, 2019. The text of this bill was amended into another larger bill and later passed the full House. On October 30, 2019 Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced a Senate companion to the bill, increasing the legislation’s outlook for passage. To recap, this legislation would make scholarships and stipends available to students underrepresented in the professions of audiology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and physical therapy (including those who are racial or ethnic minorities) or students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Eligible students must also have a financial need for assistance and be enrolled in a qualifying professional program. The American Academy of Audiology is included in the list of professional organizations able to make recommendations about the awarding of these resources and educational programs accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education (ACAE) are among the qualifying educational programs. This bill would authorize the distribution of five million dollars per year for five years.
On October 30, 2019, Senators Schatz (D-HI), Wicker (R-MS), Cardin (D-MD), Thune (R-SD), Warner (D-VA) and Hyde-Smith along with Representatives Thompson (D-CA), Welch (D-VT), Schweikert (R-AZ) and Johnson (R-OH) introduced the Creating Opportunities Now for Necessary and Effective Care Technologies (CONNECT) for Health Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation that would expand telehealth services through Medicare, improve health outcomes, make it easier for patients to connect with their health care providers and help cut costs for patients and providers. Numerous studies on telehealth have shown benefits for increased access to care and reduced spending. However, there are current statutory restrictions on the use of telehealth that create unnecessary barriers to care. Under current Medicare law, only certain health professionals are allowed to furnish telehealth services. Audiologists are currently excluded from providing such services as they are currently not classified as “practitioners” for the purposes of Medicare. Section 14 of the CONNECT for Health Act would authorize a model to test allowing additional health professionals (including audiologists) to furnish telehealth services in Medicare. Also, this legislation would authorize a study to examine whether a patient’s home could be used as an “originating site” (patient could remain at home and receive services) via telehealth in Medicare.
Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) is planning on reintroducing the Access to Frontline Care Act in the 116th Congress (H.R. 2042 in the 115th Congress) in the U.S. House of Representatives. If enacted, the legislation would authorize the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to establish a Frontline Providers Loan Repayment Program under which HHS would make student loan repayments in exchange for health professionals providing two years of service in a health care facility serving a frontline scarcity area. Frontline areas are specifically defined by the federal government as having a shortage of health practitioners or having a shortage of frontline care services. Audiology services are specifically included in the legislation as frontline care services, recognizing the important role that audiologists play in the delivery of health care.