The ASHA Leader - August 11, 2009 - (Page 7)

Congress Debates Health Care Reform by Ingrida Lusis ealth care reform has led the congressional agenda this summer. Members of Congress, economists, and the business community agree that the current system is not sustainable; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that without intervention, one out of every four dollars in the national economy will be spent in the health care system by 2025. President Barak Obama has signaled to Congress his intention to sign a law by mid-October. The administration has indicated that a comprehensive plan must include key provisions to: • Reduce long-term growth of health care costs for business and government. H • Protect families from bankruptcy or debt due to health care expenses. • Guarantee choice of plans and doctors. • Increase emphasis on wellness and prevention. • Improve patient safety and quality of care. • Assure affordable coverage for all. • Maintain coverage when an individual changes or loses employment. • Eliminate barriers to coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. Neither Democrats nor Republicans agree within their parties on the best approach, but there is consensus on many key concepts—portability of and access to insurance coverage The association is working to ensure that speech-language pathology and audiology issues, as identified in ASHA’s public policy agenda, will be addressed. regardless of pre-existing conditions or disabilities; expanded health insurance coverage for all Americans; quality and transparency; and prevention and wellness measures. Disagreements on the reforms focus on the amount of government control and the overall cost of health care reform, estimated at more than $1 trillion over a 10-year period. ASHA is working with Congress to keep speech-language pathology and audiology services in the debate. Although ASHA takes no position on the overall reshaping of health care delivery, the association is working to ensure that speech-language pathology and audiology issues, as identified in ASHA’s public policy agenda, will be addressed. and taken to the Senate floor as a single piece of legislation. Finance has not yet released its proposal; HELP has been actively debating a bill. In the House, the Democratic leaders of all three committees of jurisdiction—Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor—introduced one comprehensive proposal, released in late June as a policy draft. Mark ups on the legislation are being held through July. To become law, legislation must pass both the House and the Senate; any differences must be reconciled and accepted by each chamber before the bill can be signed into law. Direct Access Legislation Introduced to House egislation that would give Medicare beneficiaries direct access to audiologists has been introduced into the U.S. House. Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ariz.), along with 13 original co-sponsors, reintroduced the Medicare Hearing Health Care Enhancement Act on June 24. H.R. 3024 would allow Medicare beneficiaries to seek the services of an audiologist for hearing and balance diagnostic tests and other audiological services without prior physician approval. ASHA is working to increase House co-sponsorship and is also working to have a direct access bill introduced in the Senate. Health coverage offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, federal Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and other insurers already permit direct access to audiologists. H.R. 3024 would extend this option—now available to members of Congress—to Medicare beneficiaries. Direct access to audiologists avoids unnecessary costs, decreases the waiting Democratic Proposals The House and Senate HELP bills call for market reforms, establish a new program for choosing insurance policies, define a basic health care benefit package, support the use of comparative effectiveness research, add emphasis on prevention and wellness, and address workforce issues. Both have proposed an open-market, cafeteria-like health insurance program, See Health Care Reform page 21 Congressional Action Five congressional committees are working on health care legislation. In the Senate, the Finance Committee (which oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and reform financing) and the Health, Education, Pension, and Labor Committee (HELP, which oversees coverage issues) will introduce separate proposals. After mark-up in their committees, the bills will be combined L time before a patient receives audiological care, and lowers inefficient use of physician resources. It also greatly improves access to hearing care, especially for low-income beneficiaries and those in underserved areas. Similar legislation has been introduced in each of the past four sessions of Congress; last year, the bills had 107 co-sponsors in the House and six in the Senate. Strong opposition from physicians, particularly otolaryngologists, has blocked the legislation. Your advocacy for this legislation counts. Go to ASHA’s Take Action Web site ( to encourage your representative to cosponsor H.R. 3024. For more information, contact Ingrida Lusis, director of federal and political advocacy, at or 202-624-5951, or Stefanie Reeves, director of political advocacy, at or 202-624-5961. August 11, 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The ASHA Leader - August 11, 2009

The ASHA Leader - August 11, 2009
Four Members Elected to Board of Directors
Readers Respond
Congress Begins Health Care Reform Debate
Medicare Private Practice Poses Concerns for Some SLPs
Custom Fit Your Marketing
Personal Music Players
From the President
Convention Preview
2010 Dues Change
Ethics in Private Practice
Missouri SLPs Win on School Retirement Issue
A Deluge of Human Kindness
First Person on the Last Page

The ASHA Leader - August 11, 2009