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. 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 July 11, 2019, the text of this bill was amended into HR 2781—The EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019—during a legislative markup in the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. On July 17, 2019, HR 2781 as amended was approved by the full Energy and Commerce Committee and will now advance to be voted on by the entire House of Representatives.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) will be reintroducing the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act in the 116th Congress (H.R. 2550 in the 115th Congress). This legislation identifies audiologists as appropriate providers of telehealth services and authorizes Medicare to reimburse them for providing patients with audiology services via telehealth. Currently, audiologists are not considered eligible providers of telehealth services because Medicare restricts the delivery of such services to specific provider types. The legislation would expand the list of eligible providers and related covered services to include audiologists among other health care professionals. It would also remove geographic barriers that exist under current law and include the provision of telehealth services in rural, underserved, and metropolitan areas. The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act expands upon the list of providers eligible for reimbursement for telehealth under Medicare to include audiologists, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists.
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.