On November 17, 2023, Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Matt Cartwright (D-PA) introduced the Medicare Audiology Access improvement Act (H.R. 6445). This legislation is also co-sponsored by Representatives Johnson (R-OH), Shakowsky (D-IL), Mace (R-SC), Blunt Rochester (D-DE), Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Trone (D-MD), Webster (R-FL), Cohen (D-TN), LaMalfa (R-CA), Grijalva (D-AZ), Foster (D-IL) and Pocan (D-WI). Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rand Paul (R-KY) have already introduced identical legislation (S.2377) in the Senate.
This legislation would improve outcomes for beneficiaries by allowing direct access to audiological services and streamlining Medicare coverage policies so that audiologists can provide the full range of Medicare-covered diagnostic and treatment services that correspond to their scope of practice.
The legislation would also reclassify audiologists as practitioners, which is consistent with other Medicare recognized nonphysician providers and would make audiologists eligible to provide services via telehealth on a permanent basis. Further expanding access to audio-vestibular care, this legislation would also add audiologists as practitioners to Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs). This legislation has also been endorsed by the National Association of Rural Health Clinics.
“Medicare reimbursement policies should be patient-centered and maximize patient choice whenever possible,” said Congressman Bilirakis. “Updating these policies to allow licensed audiologists to fully participate in Medicare will bring greater parity and provide seniors with improved access to hearing health and balance care.”
“Age-related hearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. Left untreated, it can lead to other health risks, including dementia and falls,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright (PA-08). “Outdated Medicare rules make it difficult for seniors with hearing loss to get the care they need. That’s why I’m glad to be working with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure seniors can access a full range of hearing and balance health-care services provided by licensed audiologists.”
The American Academy of Audiology (Academy), the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) endorse this landmark legislation as a top priority to ensure expedient and optimal hearing and balance health care for older adults.
“Advancing this legislation is necessary to remove outdated barriers that prevent older Americans from receiving the hearing-health and balance care coverage that they need and deserve,” explains American Academy of Audiology President, Bopanna Ballachanda, PhD.
“Treating hearing loss and balance disorders improves an individual’s ability to communicate and connect with loved ones, decreases risk for falls, and results in a greater overall quality of life. Passage of this cost-effective legislation will give patients timely access to these services and strengthen support for seniors’ mental health and mental acuity in the process.”
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