By David H. Kirkwood
LEXINGTON, KY—Support is growing rapidly for the Audiology Patient Choice Act (HR 5304), ambitious federal legislation initiated by the Academy of Doctors of Audiology (ADA) and introduced into the House of Representatives last July. If enacted, the measure would provide Medicare patients direct access to audiologists and would grant audiologists limited license status within Medicare.
The initiative got a big boost this fall when Erin Miller, AuD, president of the American Academy of Audiology (AAA), wrote to ADA’s president, Brian Urban, AuD, and its other board members, congratulating them on their legislative efforts.
In her letter, Miller said, “The academy fully supports efforts toward physician status for audiologists, as this has been a long-range goal of the academy since its inception… This letter is to offer our endorsement of H.R. 5304.”
Last year, when ADA first unveiled the proposal as part of its “18×18 Initiative” to persuade Congress to update Title 18 of the Social Security Act by the year 2018, AAA did not support it, believing that it had no realistic chance of passage. AAA preferred to focus instead on two bills, H.R. 4035 and S. 2046 (both also supported by ADA), that would allow Medicare patients to go to an audiologist without need for a physician’s referral.
However, this legislation would do less than the Audiology Patient Choice Act to increase audiologists’ autonomy. And it would not expand Medicare coverage to all services that audiologists are licensed to provide, including vestibular rehabilitation, cerumen removal, and aural rehabilitation.
ADA welcomed its sister organization’s recent change of position. “We were very excited by their letter of support,” said Stephanie Czuhajewski, executive director of ADA. “We look forward to working with them.”
MANY OTHERS SIGN ON
Even before AAA offered its endorsement of H.R. 5304, a number of audiology-related organizations had joined the cause, and since then many more have announced their support.
As of December 8, 10 state academies of audiology, which are affiliated with the national AAA, had signed on: California, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Although there is little chance that the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) will endorse H.R. 5304, its state chapters in New York and Montana have done so.
This week, ADA announced that the Student Academy of Audiology had followed the lead of its parent organization. Laura Chenier, president of the student organization, wrote that in view of AAA’s action, “The Student Academy of Audiology (SAA) Board of Directors would like to formally recognize this endorsement and demonstrate our equal support of the ADA and its efforts.”
She added, “The SAA is committed to supporting students, as they become knowledgeable consumers of legislature and the SAA Board encourages students to advocate for advances in the field because they are the future of audiology.”
The Audiology Patient Choice Act has also won the endorsements of Salus University, the Scott Haug Foundation , the David and Carol Myers Foundation, the Audiological Resource Association, the National Aging in Place Council , AuDNet , the Hearing Care Group of Metropolitan New York, and the Montana Audiology Guild.
STARTING OVER IN A NEW CONGRESS
All the endorsements in the world, of course, do not ensure that Congress will pass any given bill. That’s especially true when it faces strong opposition, which the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) will almost certainly mount to this measure.
Moreover, very little legislation of any sort got through the 113rd Congress, which is now in its final days. Over the past two years, with the Republicans in control of the House of Representatives and the Democrats holding a slim majority in the Senate, this Congress enacted less legislation than any Congress since World War II.
Will the 114th Congress, convening next month with Republican majorities in both houses, be more likely to pass the Audiology Patient Choice Act? That’s hard to predict.
ADA’s Stephanie Czuhajewski told this blog, “We are still evaluating the composition of the 114th Congress and can’t anticipate yet what the impact will be on likelihood of its re-introduction, consideration, and passage.”
“However,” she added, “we have a lot of momentum. We are extremely optimistic about its potential, given the incredible support that it has received from the audiology community and beyond.”
One positive factor is that the two sponsors of the bill in 2014, Reps. Lynn Jenkins, a Kansas Republican, and Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, were both re-elected to the House last month, and are likely to introduce it again in the new session.
Congrats ADA! Glad to see this development. I suspect the field will finally begin to coalesce behind this legislation rather than the futile efforts thus far to push 3 separate legislative agendas.
Having AAA backing was the only way this movement could progress much farther. Looking forward to next year for a big push to educate congress and the public.
I would like to thank every organization that has endorsed “The Audiology Patient Choice Act”, especially AAA. With everyone’s support this common sense legislation will become a reality.
I am happy that AAA has endorsed the The Audiology Patient Choice Act. This bill encompasses all of the elements that Audiologists need for providing the most cost-effective and treatment-effective hearing and balance care for Medicare patients. Now if ASHA will do the same, we can show Congress that All Audiologists support this Patient Focused Health Care Reform.
I want to thank AAA for their support of The Audiology Patient Choice Act. I am an active member of both AAA and ADA and support both financially. It is so gratifying to see our two audiology organizations working together for both the betterment of audiology and our patients. The momentum I am seeing is unprecedented. I also want to thank Salus University for their support. I hope to see the support from the other audiologist programs soon!
I applaud the AAA for finally getting on board with the 18X18 initiative which has picked up momentum recently with the endorsements of other Audiology related organizations around the country. Hopefully, our other organization ASHA will see the value of promoting this legislation for its members and join the movement very soon. By showing solidarity in the professional ranks, our legislators will be more convinced that this is a good piece of legislation that needs a thorough review and deserves their support, for the betterment of their constituents and our patients, and as a cost savings move for Medicare. Thank you for your support.
Thank you Thank you AAA for getting on board with this legislation. This is truly a watershed moment for our
profession. Thank you David Kirkwood, for posting about this critical issue!
Thank you ADA for continuing to advocate for the future of our profession and for the benefit of our patients. Thank you to all the organizations for supporting the “Audiology Patient Choice Act!” All audiologists as individulas, local chapters, state organizations and national organizations like AAA supporting this legislation is powerful. Keep moving forward… we will be heard.
A big thanks to AAA and national SAA for endorsing HR 5304, the Audiology Patient Choice Act! It’s refreshing as a new audiologist to see the national organizations collaborating on important issues. Keep up the good work!
Thank you so much AAA for the endorsement. I’m a member of both AAA and ADA. I love to see the collaboration. This bill means so much to the future of our profession. Let’s keep up the good work!!
It is great to see AAA support The Audiology Patient Choice Act. The only way this act will get passed if we all work together. As a member of both AAA and ADA I support this effort wholeheartedly. Thanks David for writing this blog.
Juliëtte Sterkens, AuD
HLAA Hearing Loop Advocate
I am so excited that many organizations are in support of this legislation, including AAA! Being united as a profession is the key to making this happen.
It’s fantastic to see two professional organization work together for a cause that advances our profession! I hope that you’ll keep posting information about how audiologists can help the Audiology Patient Choice Act become reality.
I am proud of the field of audiology for working towards positive change in our profession.
Thank you, David, for following and writing about this topic.
As a member of both the American Academy of Audiology and the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, I am pleased to see that the two organizations are working in sync for the benefit of our patients. The financial obstacles under current medicare law are a disservice to the patient and to the taxpayer.
I’m glad to see multiple organizations working together to support this legislation and further the profession of Audiology. Thank you for writing this blog and keep up the good work!
Thank you AAA and ADA for your collaboration on H.R. 5304!
Thank you, David for covering this story. It is a breath of fresh air to finally see multiple audiology organizations come together in support of this legislation. Hopefully ASHA will jump in as well, or at least not stand in the way. We can now turn our attention to advocate for this going forward and confront AAO opposition. The AAO opposition would occur (and has occurred) for any legislation that proposes to help audiologists achieve more professional autonomy under Medicare. Currently they are trying to mislead members of Congress into thinking that the “physician” label means we are looking to perform AS physicians, which of course couldn’t be further from the truth. It is only a quirk of Medicare categorization that makes this terminology necessary, and none of it changes our scope of practice (since that is determined by state licensure). Let’s be vigilant and correct this misinformation wherever we see it rear its ugly head!
Thank you AAA and ADA for endorsing ” The Audiology Patient Choice Act.” This is a much needed legislation! I am excited the organizations are working together to advance treatment for our Medicare patients. Keep up the great work!
I am thrilled that my personal organizations have mounted joint support of a bill for my patients’ medical choice freedom.
Thank you AAA for this endorsement! We are headed in a great direction keeping our Medicare patients and profession in mind. Keep up the great work!
Thank you for publishing this article and providing the details of the collaboration among the professional organizations. It was great to hear of Dr. Miller’s contact with Dr. Urban, and have AAA endorse the Audiology Patient Choice Act this fall. I look forward to reading more updates as this progresses (and like Dr. Berkey, hope to hear at some point that ASHA will also support H.R. 5304 as important legislation for patient care).
I am glad to see the AAA endorsement of the Audiology Patient Choice Act. We are a small profession trying to accomplish something big, so it is nice to hear that our largest national professional organization is now supporting us and our future.
Thank you AAA!
So excited to see the momentum building behind this movement! It is an exciting time to be an audiology student!! Thank you to all who support the future of audiology!
Great to see AAA and ADA working together on this! Thank you for coving such an important topic!
I would like to commend AAA for getting on board with “The Audiology Patient Choice Act”. We are such a small profession, we really need our national organizations, particularly the one with the largest audiology membership to endorse this legislation which will serve to help our profession as well as the patients we serve. Thank you for your support.
Thank you so very much, AAA, for your support on this great endeavor that audiology has taken on! It is such an exciting time for our profession! Let’s keep the momentum going and get everyone on board!